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A former West Virginia University professor and liaison between China and the state Development Office pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud.

Dr. Quingyun Sun, of Morgantown, admitted he defrauded WVU in 2015 by purchasing two plane tickets at once for a work trip to China. He expensed one ticket to WVU and the other to Synfuels Americas Corporation, with whom he also was employed at the time, according to federal court records.

He also admitted he overstated his business-related travel expenses when he filed his joint income tax return with his wife in 2014. He said he actually had been reimbursed “a large sum” by WVU and Peabody Energy. He said some purchases had been made using a state-issued credit card.

Synfuels Americas is a Beijing-based energy conversion technology provider of coal- and gas-to-liquids processes, according to a news release from prosecutors.

Sun agreed to pay $6,233.12 in restitution to WVU under a plea deal reached with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod Douglas.

Sun no longer is employed by WVU.

Under the deal, Sun could face 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for wire fraud and an additional three years in prison and $250,000 in fines for tax fraud.

Prosecutors brought charges against Sun by way of information July 13. In such instances, the defendant typically already has agreed to plead guilty before formally being charged. Frequently, such defendants have cooperated with investigators and prosecutors.

At the time of his China trip, Sun was an associate professor and associate director of the United States-China Energy Center at WVU. He also worked as Gov. Jim Justice’s assistant for China affairs through the state Development Office.

From July 2011 to May 2015, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Generation Holding Company paid consulting fees to Energy United LC, a consulting business Sun established in 2005, according to the news release. The scheme involved Sun’s operation of his consulting business through Energy United.