UPDATE: At least 18 other similar seizures made at Logan this year.
A Chinese graduate student who had been doing research at Beth Israel Hospital was arrested at Logan Airport on Dec. 9 after customs agents found 21 vials of an unknown brown liquid wrapped in plastic bag in a sock in one of his checked bags as he prepared to board a flight back to China, according to court documents unsealed yesterday.
Zaosong Zheng, 29, a doctoral student at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, with a focus on bladder and renal cancer, is charged with making false, fictitious and fraudulent statements to customs agents for failing to disclose the vials on forms and then lying about them to agents who had been alerted he might be trying to sneak them out of the country, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case. The affidavit adds that the vials also were not properly packaged for "transportation in a commercial aircraft."
A federal judge had originally set bail at $100,000 at a hearing on Wednesday, but then revoked that pending review of a probation report on the researcher.
According to the affidavit, customs agents searched Zheng's two checked bags in a baggage room at Terminal E and found the vials in one of them. Customs agents then pulled Zheng out of the jetway as he was getting ready to board a 4:10 p.m. Hainan Airlines flight to Beijing.
According to the affidavit, Zheng at first repeatedly denied any carrying any "biological items or research material in either his carry-on or checked luggage" when questioned by customs agents. But then, the affidavit continued, Zheng admitted he had the vials in one of his bags, but said he was transporting them for a friend.
As the interview progressed, ZHENG stated that the vials were given to him by a friend "Zhang Tao" and ZHENG had no plans to do anything with the vials, but ZHENG could not explain why he was attempting to leave the United States with the vials concealed in a sock in his checked bag.
Shortly thereafter, ZHENG was brought to an interview room where he confessed that he had stolen eight (8) vials from the research lab at Beth Israel Hospital and that no one else was aware of this. ZHENG also stated that he personally replicated 11 vials based on Zhang Tao’s research.
ZHENG stated that he replicated this research over a two to three month period while working at the Beth Israel laboratory and that Beth Israel was unaware of this. ZHENG stated that his plan was to take the vials to his lab at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital for further analysis.
ZHENG stated that upon his return to China, he was planning to immediately go to his lab in China and begin working on his research using the stolen vials. ZHENG explained that if the results of his research were successful in any way that he planned to publish a paper in his name.
The affidavit concludes:
The unknown biological samples have been seized for failure to declare and are currently being examined to determine their contents.