A civilian professor at the Air War College in Alabama pleaded guilty Monday for lying to federal investigations concerning his relationship with a Chinese national.
According to the Justice Department, Xiaoming Zhang admitted to prosecutors that he made false and misleading statements when questioned about his relationship with a Chinese official.
The 69-year-old instructor was required to have a security clearance in order to maintain his position at the school on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. In order to obtain that clearance, Zhang was required to divulge any information concerning previous contacts with foreign officials, which he did not.
"Beginning sometime in 2012, Zhang developed a relationship with a known foreign official working with the Shanghai Municipal Government," the DoJ wrote in a statement. "Records indicate that Zhang met with the official in person on approximately six occasions and exchanged approximately 40 emails with him from December 2012 to January 2017.
"At some point during this period, Zhang became aware that the official was using, or attempting to use, their relationship to gain access to sensitive information in Zhang’s possession, as well as to make contact with other potentially valuable individuals."
Between 2012 and 2017, Zhang and the unidentified official met in person at least six times, while also exchanging dozens of emails with each other, the government alleged. While being questioned, Zhang told prosecutors he had never met the Chinese offical.
Prosecutors say Zhang attempted to further cover his tracks by issuing misleading statements to investigators with the Office of Personnel Management.
Zhang faces up to five years in federal prison.