NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday sentenced a former medical researcher to no prison time, after he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor and not the bribery charges leveled by officials who said a Chinese company paid him for U.S.-funded research information.
Yudong Zhu, a Chinese citizen and former associate professor at New York University, pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor count of making false statements on conflict-of-interest forms for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York imposed the sentence, which included five months of home confinement and a $5,000 fine.
The case initially seemed far more serious in 2013, when authorities charged Zhu with scheming to receive bribe payments from a Chinese company, United Imaging Healthcare, in exchange for information about his NIH-funded research.
Zhu, a magnetic resonance imaging expert who worked at NYU Langone Medical Center, received a $4 million federal grant from the NIH in 2011.
The government also previously alleged that Zhu hid his affiliation with a Chinese government-sponsored research institute.
However, Zhu’s guilty plea pertained only to false statements he made to the NIH regarding his financial interests.
In court papers following the plea, prosecutors said Zhu concealed that he had patented his technology developed using the NIH funds because he had agreed to license it to United Imaging Healthcare for millions of dollars.
If NYU had known of the patent, prosecutors said, it might have triggered a fight over future licensing revenue.
“I am hopeful that this result will allow Yudong to get back to his first love, which is the science of MRI technology, and that he can continue to make useful contributions that will benefit the world at large,” Zhu’s lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, said in an interview.
Prosecutors charged two other Chinese nationals who worked as researchers at NYU: Zing Yang, an engineer, and Ye Li, a post-doctoral fellow.
Charges were later dismissed against Yang, while Li is believed to have traveled to China before he was indicted alongside Zhu.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by David Gregorio