Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 63, of Fayetteville, was arrested by FBI agents Friday and charged with wire fraud, according to a criminal complaint and statement obtained by CNN.
"Ang made false statements and failed to report his outside employment to UA, which allowed Ang to retain his UA job as well as obtain [US government] research funding, "according to the statement filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.
As part of the research, authorities said Ang received several grants and contracts from federal agencies, including NASA.
The statute states that while Ang's close ties to the Chinese government and employment with a number of Chinese companies would have rendered him ineligible to receive grants issued by US authorities while working for the university.
CNN on Tuesday reached out to a lawyer representing Ang for comment. An initial court appearance was held Monday.
The university cooperates actively with the investigation
John Thomas, a university spokesman, said in a statement to CNN: "Simon Ang has been suspended without pay from his responsibilities with the university, and the university is actively cooperating with federal investigations into the matter."
The FBI statement says authorities discovered Ang's alleged ties to Chinese interests after a university employee tried to identify the owner of a hard drive that was lost and found at a library on campus.
While reviewing the contents of the hard drive, which was later transferred to the FBI, the statement states, the employee discovered an email exchange between Ang and a visiting researcher from Xidian University in Xi'an, China.
In the September 2018 email discussion, Ang wrote that things were starting to get difficult for him because of the current political climate, according to the statement.
"You can search the Chinese site about what the United States wants to do with thousands of fellows," Ang wrote according to the complaint, adding, "Not many people here know that I'm one of them, but if this leaks out, my job will here be in deep trouble (sic). "
While the FBI's reference to the Thousand Talents Scholar program concerns an area typically worked by the agency's investigating investigators, the federal charge spelled out in the criminal complaint against Ang relates to wire fraud rather than espionage.
Specifically, the authorities allege Ang committed fraud in 2016 by facilitating a proposal sent to NASA for a contract worth more than half a million dollars, without revealing potential conflicts of interest related to his covert engagement with Chinese entities. His proposal was eventually chosen by NASA.