A former Cornell University researcher faces up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine after he was convicted Friday in federal court of stealing valuable enzyme-making cultures and of lying to federal investigators.

Qingqiang Yin, 38, was arrested with his wife and infant daughter before they boarded a flight to Shanghai at Syracuse Hancock International Airport in New York on July 28. Customs officers found more than 250 test tubes, vials and Petri dishes, some leaking, in the family's stowed and carry-on luggage. The bags were searched because both adults had expired passports and visas, customs officials testified.

As a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell from July 15, 2001 to July 14, 2002, Yin assisted scientists with their work on bacteria and yeast cultures that manufacture the enzyme phytase. Cornell researchers say the enzyme could help improve livestock absorption of minerals as a feed supplement and reduce phosphorus...

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