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Former WVU professor accused of stealing grant funds, fleeing to China

A former West Virginia University professor who was federally indicted in 2020 on two counts of federal program fraud after investigators say he embezzled thousands of dollars in federal grant money, then fled the country for over three years, is now in custody.

According to a press release from United States District Attorney William Ihlenfeld’s office, Xinjian “Kevin” He, 41, was a professor in WVU’s engineering department where he allegedly stole federal grant funding for personal use. He is said to have used the money to purchase personal items such as clothing, furniture, home goods, and electronics.

The indictment states that between March 20, 2018, and Nov. 12, 2018, He fraudulently obtained and used approximately $8,360.36 in federal grant money that was legally owned by and under the care, custody and control of WVU.

Beginning on Nov. 24, 2018, until Nov. 19, 2019, He is accused of once again stealing WVU grant money obtained through a federal program. According to the indictment, He embezzled approximately $16,997.46 during this time.

He’s indictment was actually returned by a federal grand jury in November 2020, but remained sealed because the former professor allegedly fled the country to China following a warranted search of his residence on Dec. 19, 2019, and his termination from WVU on Dec. 31, 2019.

According to court documents, U.S. Marshals issued a “red notice” for He’s capture. The “red notice” was entered into a database by which law enforcement around the globe are informed of wanted fugitives. One of the cooperating countries in that system is Canada.

He was finally apprehended in New York by border patrol agents a few weeks ago on Sept. 26 after he was found trying to enter the United States from Canada after flying into Montreal.

Court documents say red flags were raised to border patrol because the site of He’s attempted border crossing was not the most-direct route to the United States from Montreal. However, it is noted that He was not attempting to cross illegally and came through a legitimate border crossing.

At an Oct. 20 hearing in Clarksburg federal court, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi granted a motion by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to detain He pending trial due to him being a flight risk.

Aloi stated in the detention order that he did not believe He to be a danger to the community but did find him to be a flight risk.

“Defendant’s re-entry into the United States raises concerns,” Aloi wrote in the order. “The manner of entry through Canada, using a rural, circuitous route suggests an effort to evade detection.

“Moreover, the undersigned notes that there is no extradition treaty with China — so if Defendant successfully flees to China, assuring his appearance would be difficult,” he wrote.

He will remain in the custody of the United States Marshal Service as the case proceeds.

An indictment is a formal charge brought against a defendant and does not imply guilt or conviction. A defendant is innocent until and unless proven guilty.

If convicted, He faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of fraud.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and WVU Police Department investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Wagner is prosecuting on behalf of the government.

He is represented by John D. Pizzo of Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC — Bridgeport.

Jury selection and trial for He’s case is scheduled for Dec. 12 at the Clarksburg federal courthouse.

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