Georgia Tech professor placed on leave after federal indictment

A Georgia Tech professor has been placed on administrative leave after he was accused of using his position to fraudulently sponsor visas for Chinese nationals to work in the United States, the school confirmed Monday.

Gee-Kung Chang, 73, of Smyrna, has been charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, according to Northern District of Georgia acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine. Chang and another man, 53-year-old Jianjun Yu, were both indicted by a federal grand jury March 18.

“Georgia Tech has cooperated fully with the FBI during its investigation,” the institute said in a news release. “Dr. Chang will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of the judicial process. Georgia Tech is committed to the highest standards of integrity in all areas of operation.”

According to Erskine’s announcement, Chang and Yu are accused of a scheme that involved sponsoring visas for Chinese nationals through Georgia Tech, only to have those visa recipients work at a telecommunications company in New Jersey. Yu was formerly a research director at ZTE USA, a subsidiary of a partially state-owned Chinese technology company.

Thanks to Chang’s position at Georgia Tech, he was able to help arrange for Chinese nationals to apply for J-1 visas, a work-study program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“The program is not intended for general employment of foreign workers in the United States,” the announcement said.

In the visa paperwork submitted to the U.S. Department of State, Chinese applicants said they would be working with Chang at Georgia Tech, the announcement said. However, once they arrived in the U.S., the visa recipients would go to New Jersey to work with Yu at ZTE USA, according to Erskine’s office. Sometimes, those same Chinese nationals would actually be paid salaries by Georgia Tech, Erskine said.

“The United States welcomes academics and researchers from across the globe,” FBI Atlanta Agent Chris Hacker said. “But we cannot allow anyone to exploit our benevolence. That’s what these defendants are accused of doing and now they will be judged.”

“Schemes like this not only steal invaluable opportunities from legitimate, hard-working students, it also allows scammers to come to the United States and profit from their misdeeds,” Homeland Security Investigations Agent Katrina Berger said.

The announcement did not specify how many people were able to come to the U.S. on fraudulent visas, or what might happen to those who did.

“The defendants allegedly abused the visa program and deceived Georgia Tech to bring researchers into the United States,” Erskine said. “The charges presented are the first step toward holding them accountable.”

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