Protected Rice Seeds to China
On Oct. 26, 2016, in the District of Kansas, Wengui Yan pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI while working as a geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Dale Bumpers National Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Yan, a scientist who worked with rice, admitted that he knew about plans to steal samples and send them to China. In his plea, Yan admitted that on Aug. 7, 2013, agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection found stolen seeds in the luggage of a group of visitors from China preparing to board a plane to return home. The group had visited the facility in Stuttgart. Yan admitted that before the Chinese group arrived, a co-defendant in Kansas had asked him for seeds and Yan had declined because the seeds were protected. The codefendant told Yan about other individuals seeking to steal samples of the seeds. When the delegation came to Stuttgart, Yan traveled with them to a rice farm where he knew they would have an opportunity to steal seeds. After the theft, Yan denied knowing about the plans to steal the seeds or about the theft itself. Investigators also learned that Yan attempted to cover up a trip he made to China to visit the crops research institute that sent the delegation to the United States. Co-defendant Weiqiang Zhang was convicted at trial in February 2017. Both defendants are awaiting sentencing. This case was investigated by the FBI and CBP.