LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Chinese national and UCLA researcher has been arrested on federal charges after allegedly destroying evidence in an attempt to obstruct a federal investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.
According to the criminal complaint, 29-year-old Guan Lei, threw a damaged hard drive into a dumpster near his Alhambra home on July 25. Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered the damaged hard drive after Guan, who was not allowed to board a flight to China, refused a law enforcement request to examine his computer.
An affidavit filed in support of the complaint said that the internal hard drive “was irreparably damaged and that all previous data associated with the hard drive appears to have been removed deliberately and by force.”
Guan, who was in the U.S. on a J-1 non-immigrant visa, was being investigated for possibly transferring sensitive U.S. software or technical data to China’s National University of Defense Technology. Guan also allegedly denied association with the Chinese military in 2018 while applying for a visa and in subsequent interviews with federal law enforcement, according to the complaint.
The DOJ claims that Guan admitted to participating in military training and wearing military uniforms while at NUDT and that one of his faculty advisers in China was also a lieutenant in the Chinese military who developed computers those employed by the People’s Liberation Army.
In addition to the alleged destruction of evidence, Guan has also been accused of concealing digital storage devices from investigators and falsely telling federal officials he had not had any contact with the Chinese consulate during his nearly two-year stay in the U.S.
Guan was ordered to remain in custody ahead of his scheduled Sept. 17 arraignment. If convicted as charged, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
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