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Former LANL scientist pleads guilty

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist has pleaded guilty to lying to the U.S. government about his involvement in a Chinese program that recruits people with knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property.

Turab Lookman, 67, faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine after pleading guilty in Albuquerque federal court Friday to one count of making a false statement to a federal investigator, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Lookman, of Santa Fe, was charged in May for lying to a LANL counterintelligence about being recruited by the Thousand Talents Program. Investigators found that Lookman actually applied for and was eventually asked

Turab Lookman

to participate in the program for monetary compensation.

“The Laboratory proactively recognized this issue and since then has worked cooperatively with federal law enforcement and will continue to assist as appropriate during the sentencing phase,” LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said in a statement Friday.

Lookman joined LANL in 1999 and worked there until recently, online LANL sources indicate. He was named a Laboratory Fellow in 2017, one of LANL’s highest awards for it scientific staff.

A LANL news release from 2017 said Lookman’s work “has received enormous worldwide attention” and that he was co-author of two books and more than 250 publications. Lookman was also the recipient in 2009 of LANL’s Fellows Prize for Outstanding Research and the 2016 Distinguished Postdoctoral Mentor Award.

Thousand Talents was started in 2008 as an effort to attract successful Chinese people abroad to return home to boost the economy. It has attracted more than 7,000 people back to China, mostly from the United States, the scientific journal Nature reported last year.

Also in 2018, news reports emerged that the program had become the subject of U.S. government investigations.

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