FBI agent speaks out on Medical College espionage case

WAUWATOSA (WITI) -- The FBI on Wednesday, April 3rd spoke with FOX6 News following the arrest of a Medical College researcher -- accused of stealing vials of a compound intended for cancer research -- and shipping them to China.

A federal criminal complaint says there is evidence 42-year-old Hua Jun Zhao, a Medical College researcher sent vials of a compound called C-25 to China. Investigators also found his ticket for China on Tuesday, April 2nd -- and did not make that flight.

Zhao is being held in the Milwaukee County Jail for the FBI.

Zhao is accused of stealing cancer research and shipping it to China, where he allegedly intended to take the compound to a Chinese university to develop further.

A complaint says Zhao was working under Dr. Marshall Anderson at the Medical College -- researching an organic compound called C-25. The compound had promise of helping drugs destroy cancer cells, while not harming healthy cells.

An FBI agent says Dr. Anderson left three bottles of C-25 on his desk, and left the room for a moment. The three bottles were gone when he returned. Surveillance video shows Zhao entering the office during that time in late February.

Examining Zhao's personal computer, officials discovered hundreds of items related to Dr. Anderson's research on C-25. There was also a grant application written by Zhao in Mandarin Chinese, asking for Chinese funding to continue his research.

That wasn't all. When officials started questioning Zhao, Medical College security discovered Zhao had remote access to the Medical College computer service and began deleting items related to the C-25 research, including Dr. Anderson's original raw data.

Fortunately, the Medical College was able to restore the deleted files, or they say years of research would have been destroyed. When questioned about that, the criminal complaint says Zhao claimed he did not understand, but others who worked with him at the Medical College said he spoke excellent English and lived in the U.S. for many years.

Teresa Carlson is a special agent in charge of the FBI Milwaukee Division.

"Very happy that we got people thinking and doing the right ting. Going -- 'oh yeah, find the FBI guy's card and call him up,'" Carlson said.

Carlson says about a month before this incident occurred, she and another FBI agent had made a strategic partnership presentation at the college about the need for tight security and the possibility of espionage.

"In an effort to education them -- make sure that they understand the need to protect their information, the reasonable steps that are necessary and also so that they have our card. It makes us very happy when it works the way it's supposed to work," Carlson said.

Carlson says everyone should be concerned about economic espionage -- or the threat of foreign governments stealing our business secrets. Some estimates put the economic toll at $200 billion.

No bail has yet been set for Zhao.