Matthew Ormseth of the Los Angeles Times reports that a visiting researcher at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has been arrested and charged with destroying evidence. The FBI originally began investigating Guan Lei in July under suspicions that he had committed visa fraud and possibly shared software or technical data from UCLA to officials in the Chinese military. However, he is not currently charged with those crimes; instead he has been accused of destroying evidence. Agents had been staking out his apartment in Irvine, CA where they observed Lei pull a computer hard drive out of his sock and dispose of it in a trash bin.
The FBI interviewed Lei and Ormseth writes “[t]wo days after being interviewed, Guan tried to board a flight out of LAX to Xiamen, a city in southeast China.” Six days after the interview, the agents saw Lei dispose of the hard drive outside of his apartment. The hard drive was crushed according to an affidavit.
Agents returned to the Lei’s apartment five days later with a search warrant, with authorization to search Lei as well, however the agents were unable to locate him at that time. Ormseth writes that “Guan [Lei], who was doing laundry across the street, saw them arrive and walked briskly away, the affidavit said.” It is currently unclear what was recovered from the apartment with the search warrant, or if any data was salvageable from the hard drive agents recovered from the trash bin.
“Guan is the latest Chinese national studying at a U.S. University to be charged with a federal crime” Ormseth writes. According to the LA Times article, visiting scientists from Stanford, UC San Francisco, and UC Davis have also been arrested and detained. More information is likely to come in the following weeks.
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