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Xiaoming Zhang, a civilian professor at the Air War College, in Alabama, has pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent. Zhang, a naturalized American citizen of Chinese descent, began working as an Air War College professor in 2003. During his tenure at there, Zhang would travel to China on a regular basis for work-related purposes, for research and to visit family living there.

Beginning sometime in 2012, Zhang developed a relationship with a known foreign official working with the Shanghai Municipal Government. 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. Zhang failed to report the relationship with the foreign official even after he came to understand that the official was attempting to gather sensitive information from Zhang.

According to the plea agreement, Zhang made multiple misleading or false statements to authorities in an attempt to hide his relationship with the Chinese official. In August of 2017, Zhang denied knowing the foreign official when questioned by U.S. Office of Personnel Management investigators who were verifying his continued eligibility for a security clearance. Zhang eventually admitted to meeting with the official in China on numerous occasions and to being untruthful concerning that information. Zhang also acknowledged that he had concealed the relationship with the official because he knew it was improper.

Zhang pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent and faces a maximum of five years in prison at sentencing.