Cyber Crime

UCLA researcher charged with destroying hard drive amid FBI probe

Guan Lei who is on a J-1 nonimmigrant visa works for the UCLA and is accused of sharing sensitive data and technology with the Chinese military.

A Chinese researcher employed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly destroying and obstructing critical evidence.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time when Trump’s administration and Beijing based Byte Dance is already at par over short video creating platform TikTok. The application is under fire for collecting data and giving it to the Chinese government that can target individuals or the state for blackmail and espionage.

Nevertheless, the perpetrator in question, Guan Lei currently on a J-1 non-immigrant visa has been arrested on ‘one count of criminal complaint’ as stated by the Department of Justice (DoJ). The 29-year-old researcher allegedly threw a hard drive into a dumpster located near his residence on 25th July.



 

Upon retrieving the hard drive, the complaint registered mentions that it was damaged beyond repair. Also, indicating that the data content had been removed ‘deliberately and by force.’ But suspicions grew when Guan blatantly refused the FBI from examining his computer and tried to board a plane back to China.

However, the alleged perpetrator is being questioned for his possible link with China’s National University of Defense and Technology (NUDT) and for transferring critical US software and technical data.

He also denied his previous association with the Chinese Military- the People’s Liberation Army or the fact that he had no contact with the Chinese Consulate in the last two years.

However, Guan later admitted his link with NUDT claiming that he did participate in military training. Besides this, one of his faculty advisors at the said university was a lieutenant general in the People’s Liberation Army.



 

What is more disconcerting the lieutenant general actually developed computers for the army general staff department, air force, military weaponry, and nuclear technology.

According to the complaint affidavit:

“NUDT is suspected of procuring U.S.-origin items to develop supercomputers with nuclear explosive applications and has been placed on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List for nuclear nonproliferation reasons.”

The felony sentence of obliterating evidence could land Guan in federal prison for a statutory-maximum sentence of twenty years.

Currently, the case is being investigated by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, US Customs, and Border Protection. Besides this, the US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service has extended its full support in the case.

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