WAUWATOSA (WITI) -- Federal court documents say the cure for cancer may have been stolen from a Milwaukee researcher and shipped to China! Now, a medical scientist is behind bars, accused of espionage benefitting a foreign government.
A federal criminal complaint says there is evidence 42-year-old Hua Jun Zhao, a Medical College researcher sent vials of a compound called C-25 to China. Investigators also found his ticket for China on Tuesday, April 2nd -- and he will not make that flight.
Zhao is being held in the Milwaukee County Jail for the FBI.
Zhao is accused of stealing cancer research and shipping it to China, where he allegedly intended to take the compound to a Chinese university to develop further.
A complaint says Zhao was working under Dr. Marshall Anderson at the Medical College -- researching an organic compound called C-25. The compound had promise of helping drugs destroy cancer cells, while not harming healthy cells.
An FBI agent says Dr. Anderson left three bottles of C-25 on his desk, and left the room for a moment. The three bottles were gone when he returned. Surveillance video shows Zhao entering the office during that time in late February.
Examining Zhao's personal computer, officials discovered hundreds of items related to Dr. Anderson's research on C-25. There was also a grant application written by Zhao in Mandarin Chinese, asking for Chinese funding to continue his research.
That wasn't all. When officials started questioning Zhao, Medical College security discovered Zhao had remote access to the Medical College computer service and began deleting items related to the C-25 research, including Dr. Anderson's original raw data.
Fortunately, the Medical College was able to restore the deleted files, or they say years of research would have been destroyed. When questioned about that, the criminal complaint says Zhao claimed he did not understand, but others who worked with him at the Medical College said he spoke excellent English and lived in the U.S. for many years.
No bail has yet been set for Zhao.
The FBI issued a statement on this incident on Tuesday evening, saying:
"On March 29, 2013, Special Agents in the Milwaukee Division of the FBI arrested Hua Jun Zhao, age 42. Zhao is charged via a criminal complaint for knowingly engaging in economic espionage benefitting a foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1831 (a) (1)(2)(3).
Zhao is alleged to have used his employment and position at the Medical College of Wisconsin to illegally acquire patented cancer research material and taken steps to provide that material to Zhejiang University in China. The public is reminded individuals placed under arrest are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The arrest was a direct result of successful outreach by the FBI’s Division’s Strategic Partnership Program. This program focuses on fostering communication and building awareness through partnerships with key public and private entities. The goal of the outreach is to protect United States sensitive information, technologies, and competitiveness in an age of globalization.
“This investigation underscores the importance of the FBI’s outreach to our community partners,” said Teresa L. Carlson, Special Agent in Charge, “the FBI will aggressively pursue those who would attempt to steal trade secrets, proprietary information or national security information.”
The FBI Milwaukee Division’s Strategic Partnership Program provides businesses and academia the tools to recognize, identify and report insider threats, theft of trade secrets and economic espionage. The FBI encourages businesses and academia to contact the Strategic Partnership Coordinator, Special Agent Byron Franz at 414-291-4371, for more information on this outreach program, or to report suspected threats."