US scientist pleads guilty to lying about China contact

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A scientist who once worked at a U.S. laboratory in New Mexico has pleaded guilty to lying about his involvement with a Chinese government technology program.

Turab Lookman, 67, entered his plea Friday during a hearing in Albuquerque after reaching an agreement with prosecutors. He is awaiting sentencing, which could include up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Lookman was initially indicted on three counts of making false statements. His attorney had said previously that prosecutors failed to prove his client had accessed or downloaded any high-level security information before he was fired from his job at the lab.

Authorities said Lookman came under scrutiny after he told a co-worker he had citizenship in four different countries — including India, where he was born. He also had been asked in a security-clearance questionnaire and later by federal officials if any foreign nationals had offered him a job or if he had applied for one. He falsely answered to all questions that he had not, authorities said.

According to an indictment, in one instance, a counterintelligence officer for the lab asked Lookman if he had applied for the China Thousand Talents Program.

Prosecutors have described Thousand Talents as a program established by China to recruit people with access to and knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property. For years, it was known as one of many of the country's state initiatives aimed at reversing a decades-long China brain drain.

At Los Alamos, Lookman received at least two awards for his work. A computational physics expert, he also co-authored two books.