*Previously posted on IPPIBlog.com

On September 26, 2019, the Chicago Tribune published an article written by Todd Lightly titled, “How A Chicago college student ended up in the middle of an FBI investigation into Chinese spying.”

The article is an excellent investigative report into how a former Chinese student was allegedly recruited by a Chinese intelligence officer to recruit other Chinese nationals working in the U.S. to also become spies.

I highly recommend you read this excellent article.

But my purpose in bringing this up at this moment is because of the last section of the article titled, “Stay a little longer.”

WHY?

It essentially details how some former U.S. educated Chinese students would attempt to take advantage of a U.S. temporary work program by claiming to be employed by bonafide U.S. companies, except, as it turned out, the bonafide companies were actually shell companies.

HOW DID IT WORK?

Details from the Chicago Tribune :

“After Ji graduated with a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2015, he remained in the U.S. through a temporary work program known as Optional Practical Training. The program allows international students to stay for up to two extra years if they have earned degrees related to science, technology engineering and mathematics.

“Ji claimed to have landed a job as a software engineer for a company called Findream LLC. His responsibilities included writing “well designed, testable, efficient code by using best software development practices,” according to court records.

SHELL COMPANIES

Chicago Tribune continued:

“Findream had advertised itself as a startup technology company based in Mountain View, California. It was one of two companies incorporated by Weiyun “Kelly” Huang, a 30-year-old Chinese citizen. Sinocontech was the other company Huang formed, authorities said.

“But Findream and Sinocontech do not exist, except on paper. Federal authorities allege they were front companies used to provide false employment verification for Chinese students, convincing immigration officials that they were here legally.

“Findream and Sincocontech had so many “employees” that they ranked among the top U.S.-based companies that hired students under the federal Optional Practical Training program. Findream ranked No. 10, just behind Facebook. Sinocontech ranked No. 25, just behind Bank of America, according to a 2017 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement list.

LinkedIn SEARCH

Chicago Tribune continued:

“A search of LinkedIn, a professional networking site, shows that scores of graduates from schools from around the country wrote in their online biographies that they worked for either Findream or Sinocontech. The students claimed to have positions as data analysts, web developers, consultants and software engineers.

Chicago Tribune continued:

“International students such as Ji who want to study in the U.S. must obtain a visa and enroll in a school certified by ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

“Federal authorities would not directly address what was being done to locate the more than 2,600 Chinese nationals who claimed to work at Findream or Sincontech, how many might still be in the country or whether any of them might be agents for the Chinese government.

“ ‘Law enforcement is following up on those 2,600 to determine what action would be appropriate to take related to them going forward,” said Lausch, the U.S. attorney.’”

RESULTS OF IP PI BLOG’S LinkedIn SEARCH

IP PI Blog did a quick search for Findream and Sinocontech on LinkedIn this evening. Dozens and dozens of persons claiming to be currently or formerly employed by the two shell companies appeared.

CONCLUSION

It would be prudent for institutions / companies (public and private)–especially those involved in scientific R & D–to review their personnel records to see if any of their current or past employees claimed to have been employed by those two shell companies.

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