The FBI is hunting for a former star professor who vanished in China, along with his knowledge of NASA, Raytheon and restricted defense information.
Professor Rongxing Li, 56, of Ohio State University, resigned under “unusual circumstances” last year after 18 years of service, which prompted a call to the FBI. Li, a U.S. citizen who grew up in China, also worked with NASA for its 2003 and 2009 Mars exploration missions.
“With this email I resign from my position at the Ohio State University,” the world-renowned professor of OSU’s Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering wrote Feb. 15, 2014, the Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday.
OSU, the FBI and NASA declined to comment for the newspaper’s story, but the Dispatch was able to piece together some of the mystery through search warrants unsealed in August.
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At the time of his disappearance, the FBI was investigating Li to determine his ties to China. He told NASA that he did not have connections with the communist nation’s scientists in a $36.9 million proposal for imaging work for a 2020 Mars mission, but OSU knew otherwise and began an internal investigation, the Dispatch reported.
Li’s wife, Jue Tian, 56, was also stopped by Homeland Security agents in San Francisco on March 1, 2014. The unsealed warrant says she was found with thumb drives that contained defense information, the newspaper reported. Their family home was also searched, but no charges have been filed.
One of OSU’s last email exchanges with Li established that he was in China looking after his sick mother, but he has not been seen or heard from since, the newspaper reported.