(CN) – A Chinese national researcher at the University of California in Los Angeles was detained and arrested on Friday for destruction of evidence after attempting to dispose of a hard drive linked to an FBI investigation, according to the Justice Department.
In DOJ court documents, 29-year-old Guan Lei first came across the FBI's radar during an investigation into suspected visa fraud when he requested a transfer from China to Los Angeles.
Lei, originally a student at the National Defense Technology University in China, reportedly told sworn law enforcement officers that he had never served in the military when applying for his transfer visa and denied any connection with the People's Liberation Army.
However, investigators found that there was more to the story. After Lei was further questioned about his involvement in the Chinese military, he admitted that while at the National Defense Technology University, he not only wore Chinese military uniforms but also attended military training.
While Lei continued to claim that this did not mean that he had served in the military, court documents admitted that his superiors at the school were "high-ranking" officials in the Chinese military during his time at Chinese university.
Things came to a head when, during an FBI interview with Lei in July, Lei reportedly told investigators investigating the alleged Visa fraud that Lei had no storage devices or drives other than a laptop and two phones Contained relevant investigation information.
While Lei allowed the agent to search his laptop during the July interview, he refused to let officers take the laptop for a more thorough search.
Two days after the interview, Lei was stopped at Los Angeles International Airport and questioned about where he was trying to catch a flight to China.
Officials continued to question Lei about access to storage devices in connection with the investigation. The officers even asked Lei if he had any contact with anyone from the Chinese consulate while he was in the United States. Lei denied making such contact.
Police officers said they later learned that Lei's statements were false, leading to a criminal complaint against Lei, which was unsealed on Friday.
According to the complaint, Google records obtained from a law enforcement search warrant showed that Lei had contacted the Chinese consulate several times over the summer. Correspondence appeared to be mainly focused on flight options to China. Documents show that while Lei's friend lived together, she also drove via Lyft to the nearby consulate in July.
Lei also reportedly tried to destroy evidence. Officials alleged that Lei threw a destroyed hard drive in a nearby dumpster outside his home a few days after attempting to board a plane to China. Officials say the hard drive was "damaged beyond repair" and that information on the hard drive appeared to have been forcibly and deliberately removed.
Lei was accused of destroying evidence to obstruct an FBI investigation and is being investigated because he may have sent sensitive US software data to his former Chinese university – the same school that the complaint alleged was "items from the." United States procured to develop supercomputers with nuclear explosives applications. "
Lei first appeared in court on Friday afternoon, where a judge ordered her detention and a trial on September 17.
If convicted, Lei could face up to 20 years' imprisonment, the maximum legal sentence for destruction of evidence.