Disgraced Caltech Scholar and Harvard Professor Sentenced to Time Served

Dr. Charles Lieber, convicted on charges he ”chronically lied” to university administrators and investigators, spent two days in prison

For years, Charles Lieber traveled to China and lied about it to bosses at Harvard and the federal officials who funded, prosecutors say, the majority of his research, secreting bundles of cash paid by the Chinese in his checked luggage upon each return. On Wednesday he was sentenced to time served—the two days he spent in a lockup after the FBI stormed his laboratory at Harvard University and dragged him out in handcuffs on Jan. 28. 2020.

U.S. District Court Justice Rya Zobel ordered Lieber, who delivered an emotional apology to his family from a prepared statements, to spend six months under house arrest followed by two years of supervised release. He will also pay a $50,000 fine and another $34,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

“I regret the things that brought me here,” Lieber, 64, told the judge, according to Boston-based journalist Bruce Gellerman, who was in the court. “I lost my job, my career and my freedom and I sincerely hope I am not going to lose what remains of my life given my poor health.”

Lieber was chairman of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry Department when he was arrested by federal agents on January 28, 2020—at the start of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic—and charged with lying about his relationship with Wuhan University of Technology in China and the Thousand Talents Program, created by the Chinese government more than a decade ago to recruit high-level scientists and academics. He resigned from Harvard in February, and his name has been scrubbed from the university website.  

A jury convicted Lieber in December 2021 of two counts of making false statements to the government for denying he had participated in the Thousand Talents Program; and two counts of filing false tax returns for failing to report the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in cash payments from Wuhan University of Technology.

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