ArentFox Schiff Secures Victory on Behalf of University of Kansas Professor

ArentFox Schiff LLP secured a victory on behalf of University of Kansas professor Feng “Franklin” Tao in a closely watched case involving allegations of wire fraud and false statements.

The ArentFox Schiff team representing Dr. Tao is led by Partner Peter R. Zeidenberg and includes Associate Michael F. Dearington and Paralegal Samantha Kessler.

In 2019, Dr. Tao was indicted on 10 counts, including seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false statements, for allegedly failing to disclose to the University of Kansas and government funding agencies his affiliation with a Chinese university, while receiving US research grants. Prosecutors from the National Security Division and from the US Attorney’s Office in Kansas brought the case – the first of its kind under the now-defunct DOJ China Initiative.

The government dismissed two counts before trial, and the jury acquitted Dr. Tao of four counts after a 2.5-week trial that took place earlier this year. ArentFox Schiff moved for acquittal on the remaining four counts immediately following the trial.

On September 20, 2022, the US District Court for the District of Kansas granted ArentFox Schiff’s motion for judgment of acquittal on the three remaining wire-fraud counts. The Court found that there was insufficient evidence that Dr. Tao defrauded the government or the University of Kansas, nor was there evidence that he obtained money or property through the alleged scheme to defraud. Agreeing with the defense, the Court also held that maintenance of salary is not a valid object of a wire fraud scheme under the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Skilling v. United States. As a result, Dr. Tao has now been cleared of 9 out of 10 counts.

News coverage of the case can be found here: Reuters, AP, abc NEWS, Fox News, Law360, and nature.

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