A former medical researcher at a Wisconsin cancer center yesterday pleaded guilty to one charge of "accessing a computer without authorization" in a U.S. district court in Milwaukee. The researcher, Huajun Zhao, allegedly stole a potential cancer drug from the lab and originally faced a charge of economic espionage, but that charge was ultimately dropped.
Zhao obtained his Ph.D. in China and came to the United States for postdoctoral training, first at the University of Cincinnati and then at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. He had accepted a faculty position at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and was preparing to leave the country before he was arrested in late March.
After dropping the espionage charge, federal prosecutors charged Zhao in April with computer tampering and lying to a federal agent. Zhao pleaded not guilty to both, but on 2 July, he reached a plea agreement deal with prosecutors on the computer access charge, which replaced the earlier charges. The violation carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Zhao's lawyer declined a request for comment. Sentencing is set for 6 August.