Chinese government worker charged with visa fraud, allegedly tried to get Chinese recruiters into US

A Chinese government employee working in the United States has been charged with visa fraud for allegedly trying to bring Chinese recruiters into America by claiming they were scholars who needed research visas, the Justice Department said this week.

Zhongsan Liu, 57, was arrested in Fort Lee, N.J., on Monday. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and faces up to five years in prison.

Liu, who operated the New York office of the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel (CAIEP-NY), is said to have fraudulently procured visas for other People's Republic of China government employees from around 2017 up to this month, according to the Justice Department.

"Zhongsan Liu broke the law by seeking visas for employees of the government of the People's Republic of China to enter the United States under false pretenses," said FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director John Brown in a statement. "Individuals obtained visas under the guise of research scholars, but in reality, their assignment was to recruit top U.S. talent to benefit the government of China."

CAIEP-NY is a Chinese government agency that recruits U.S. scientists, engineers, academics and other experts work in China, among other things, the DOJ stated.

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This May 14, 2013, file photo shows the Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington early in the morning. (AP)

This May 14, 2013, file photo shows the Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington early in the morning. (AP)

Liu allegedly tried to obtain J-1 Research Scholar visas for an employee and a prospective employee.

"The J-1 Research Scholar visa program permits foreign nationals to come to the United States for the primary purpose of conducting research at a corporate research facility, museum, library, university or other research institution," the Justice Department said.

One of the visa applicants said she was coming into the U.S. to conduct research at a university outside New York, according to the DOJ, but her actual purpose was "performing full-time talent recruitment work at CAIEP-NY."

“We welcome foreign students and researchers, including from China, but we do not welcome visa fraud -- especially on behalf of a government,” said Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division John C. Demers. "We will continue to confront Chinese government attempts to subvert American law to advance its own interests in diverting U.S. research and know-how to China."

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"Liu helped [her] take measures to enhance her false appearance as a Research Scholar at [the university] by, among other things, directing [her] to report to [the school] upon her arrival in the United States; ensuring that [she] obtained a driver’s license in the state where [the school] is located; and instructing [her] to periodically visit [the university] while working full-time at CAIEP-NY," the Justice Department said.

Liu allegedly used his network to ensure the CAIEP-NY's new hire would obtain a research scholar visa when he really intended for them to help with recruitment.

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"As alleged, [Liu] conspired to obtain research scholar visas fraudulently for people whose actual purpose was not research but recruitment,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said.  “Rather than helping to bring students to the U.S., Liu allegedly conspired to defraud this country’s visa system to advance his efforts to attract U.S. experts to China. Thanks to the FBI, this alleged abuse of the visa system has been halted.”