2 Florida Men Plead Guilty in Scheme to Illegally Export Biochemicals to China

Tens of thousands of reference drugs and toxins for laboratories were illegally shipped to China in a multi-million-dollar scheme involving a U.S. university research employee and students, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced.Pen Yu, also known as Ben Yu, a U.S. citizen residing in Gibsonton, Florida, fraudulently purchased deeply discounted biochemical products from MilliporeSigma between July 2016 and May 2023, according to U.S. prosecutors. MilliporeSigma is a subsidiary of Germany-based Merck KGaA.According to court documents, the biochemical products included analytical standards of cocaine, fentanyl, morphine, MDMA, amphetamine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, codeine, and ketamine. Analytical standards are substances that are used to calibrate scientific or medical instruments.To make his scheme work. Mr. Yu enlisted the help of Gregory Muñoz, a MilliporeSigma sales representative. Hence, Mr. Yu was able to falsely present himself as someone affiliated with a biolab at a Florida university and have the items he ordered sent to the university’s laboratory stockroom. Subsequently, a stockroom employee diverted the purchased products back to Mr. Yu.The stockroom employee was not named in court documents.Mr. Yu, who the prosecutors called the “ringleader” of the scheme, then repackaged the products and shipped them to China using falsified export documents, the DOJ said in a May 22 press release.Related StoriesMr. Yu obtained from MilliporeSigma more than $4.9 million in discounts and other benefits, such as free shipping, that weren’t available to regular customers. Mr. Yu also gave Mr. Muñoz more than $100,000 in gift cards for facilitating these translations, according to court documents.Mr. Yu and Mr. Muñoz have pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy for their roles in the scheme, according to the court documents. The DOJ said it won’t bring charges against MilliporeSigma because the company “offered exceptional cooperation to the prosecution team.”“Faking an affiliation with an academic research lab to obtain controlled biochemical materials, and then sending those materials to China, is not only wrong, but illegal,” said Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod in a statement.“Today’s announcement provides yet another fact pattern for universities to beware of—the misuse of academic institutions by outsiders who seek to obscure the actual customer of controlled items,” he added.Co-ConspiratorsMr. Yu was paid more than $100,000 by his “one or more co-conspirators” in China for his efforts, according to court documents. In emails sent to Mr. Muñoz, Mr. Yu referred to his co-conspirators as his “boss.”The laboratory stockroom employee who took part in Mr. Yu’s scheme was a U.S. citizen residing in Gainesville, Florida, according to court documents.To deceive MilliporeSigma, Mr. Yu and Mr. Muñoz used the email addresses and names of two researchers who had already left the university to place orders without their knowledge or authorization, according to court documents. Additionally, the two defendants paid students from the University of Florida—among them a Chinese national named “Leticia”—to use their emails to place orders with MilliporeSigma.Zheng “Leticia” Nongnong was named as a co-conspirator in Mr. Yu’s scheme, according to the university’s WUFT media, and she placed over 60 orders under Mr. Yu’s direction in 2023. An order she placed in March last year included purified noncontagious proteins of cholera toxin and pertussis toxin.Ms. Zheng is also president of the school’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA).CSSAs are known to be an integral part of China’s “united front work,” which the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has warned about its influence operations in the United States.The Epoch Times reached out to the University of Florida for comment.

2 Florida Men Plead Guilty in Scheme to Illegally Export Biochemicals to China

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Tens of thousands of reference drugs and toxins for laboratories were illegally shipped to China in a multi-million-dollar scheme involving a U.S. university research employee and students, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced.

Pen Yu, also known as Ben Yu, a U.S. citizen residing in Gibsonton, Florida, fraudulently purchased deeply discounted biochemical products from MilliporeSigma between July 2016 and May 2023, according to U.S. prosecutors. MilliporeSigma is a subsidiary of Germany-based Merck KGaA.

According to court documents, the biochemical products included analytical standards of cocaine, fentanyl, morphine, MDMA, amphetamine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, codeine, and ketamine. Analytical standards are substances that are used to calibrate scientific or medical instruments.

To make his scheme work. Mr. Yu enlisted the help of Gregory Muñoz, a MilliporeSigma sales representative. Hence, Mr. Yu was able to falsely present himself as someone affiliated with a biolab at a Florida university and have the items he ordered sent to the university’s laboratory stockroom. Subsequently, a stockroom employee diverted the purchased products back to Mr. Yu.

The stockroom employee was not named in court documents.

Mr. Yu, who the prosecutors called the “ringleader” of the scheme, then repackaged the products and shipped them to China using falsified export documents, the DOJ said in a May 22 press release.

Mr. Yu obtained from MilliporeSigma more than $4.9 million in discounts and other benefits, such as free shipping, that weren’t available to regular customers. Mr. Yu also gave Mr. Muñoz more than $100,000 in gift cards for facilitating these translations, according to court documents.

Mr. Yu and Mr. Muñoz have pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy for their roles in the scheme, according to the court documents. The DOJ said it won’t bring charges against MilliporeSigma because the company “offered exceptional cooperation to the prosecution team.”

“Faking an affiliation with an academic research lab to obtain controlled biochemical materials, and then sending those materials to China, is not only wrong, but illegal,” said Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod in a statement.

“Today’s announcement provides yet another fact pattern for universities to beware of—the misuse of academic institutions by outsiders who seek to obscure the actual customer of controlled items,” he added.

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Co-Conspirators

Mr. Yu was paid more than $100,000 by his “one or more co-conspirators” in China for his efforts, according to court documents. In emails sent to Mr. Muñoz, Mr. Yu referred to his co-conspirators as his “boss.”

The laboratory stockroom employee who took part in Mr. Yu’s scheme was a U.S. citizen residing in Gainesville, Florida, according to court documents.

To deceive MilliporeSigma, Mr. Yu and Mr. Muñoz used the email addresses and names of two researchers who had already left the university to place orders without their knowledge or authorization, according to court documents. Additionally, the two defendants paid students from the University of Florida—among them a Chinese national named “Leticia”—to use their emails to place orders with MilliporeSigma.

Zheng “Leticia” Nongnong was named as a co-conspirator in Mr. Yu’s scheme, according to the university’s WUFT media, and she placed over 60 orders under Mr. Yu’s direction in 2023. An order she placed in March last year included purified noncontagious proteins of cholera toxin and pertussis toxin.

Ms. Zheng is also president of the school’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA).

CSSAs are known to be an integral part of China’s “united front work,” which the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has warned about its influence operations in the United States.

The Epoch Times reached out to the University of Florida for comment.

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