Former professor sentenced for 1 year in federal prison for lying to FBI agent
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KAIT) – A former University of Arkansas professor was met with a one-year sentence in federal prison after being found guilty of lying to an FBI special agent.
On Thursday, June 16, Dr. Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 65, was given the sentence in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court in Fayetteville.
Ang was a professor of electrical engineering and a researcher at the University of Arkansas, which has a policy on patents, noting the “ownership of all inventions created by any person or persons to whom this policy is applicable shall reside in the University”.
While working as an Arkansas professor, Ang held multiple positions with companies based in China. A total of 24 patents listing him as a co-inventor were filed in China under Ang’s name or his Chinese birth name. He did not disclose these to the university, according to content partner KNWA.
The false statement to the FBI came during an interview on May 8, 2020. A special agent asked if his name would be listed as the inventor on numerous patents in China. Ang responded, “Yeah, I am not the inventor, I don’t even know what that is.”
On Jan. 21, Ang signed a plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to a charge of making a “materially false and fictitious and fraudulent statement” to an FBI special agent.
In exchange, over 50 other remaining charges against him were dropped, including federal wire fraud.
The January agreement noted the prosecution, and the defendant agreed a sentence of one year would be appropriate. Ang would also be fined $5,600.
On Thursday, Prosecuting attorney David Clay Fowlkes told the court the government believes the agreement “strikes the correct” balance, including promoting respect for the law and serving as a deterrent against future criminal activity like Ang’s.
Defense attorney Drew Ledbetter noted the plea agreement is “very much a compromise”.
“We’re all walking away, a little unhappy,” he said of the plea deal.
Ledbetter also explained his client has been “punished in other ways,” and “far more significantly” than just the consequences of a prison sentence.
According to KNWA, Ledbetter went on to explain Ang’s move to Arkansas from Malaysia in 1977, prompted by both the university’s affordable price and its placement alphabetically on a list of American colleges that he read.
He told the court Ang arrived in Fayetteville on New Year’s Day and was unaware the school cafeteria was closed for the holiday. After two days without food, Ang had what he described as “the best meal of his life” at Fulbright Cafeteria.
Ledbetter concluded by noting friends and family interviewed in the investigation now view Ang as “some kind of Chinese spy”, and that his client simply wants to spend the remainder of his life focusing on his family.
Ang also spoke briefly on his own behalf, taking full accountability for his actions.
“I sincerely apologize to this court for my conduct,” he added.
KNWA said Judge Timothy Brooks acknowledged Ang’s crime falls “toward the low end of the spectrum of relative seriousness” regarding federal cases he sees in his courtroom.
“But context really matters,” he added.
The judge noted Ang had been “cooperative with the government” during an ongoing investigation and that he was “loved and respected by his colleagues” at the university. The judge also noted receiving several letters on Ang’s behalf.
Ang has been out on bond and will be allowed to self-report to prison, with a tentative deadline set for July 20.
The plea agreement noted the maximum penalties Ang could face included a prison term of up to five years and a maximum fine of $250,00, as well as a supervised released term of up to three years after his imprisonment.
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