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Chinese national sentenced in Kansas engineered rice theft

KANSAS CITY, Kan. >> A Chinese national who lived in Manhattan, Kansas, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to steal proprietary rice seeds developed in the U.S. and giving them to visitors from China.

Federal prosecutors today announced 51-year-old Weiqiang Zhang’s sentence on two counts of conspiracy and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. He was convicted in February 2017.

Zhang was a rice breeder for Ventria Bioscience in Junction City, Kansas, which developed genetically engineered rice for therapeutic and medical fields.

Prosecutors said Zhang stored hundreds of seeds from Ventria at his home. In 2013, Zhang toured facilities in the Midwest with officials from a crop research institute in China. Federal officials found Ventria seeds in the visitors’ luggage as they prepared to return to China.

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