A Chinese national will spend over three years behind bars after pleading guilty to conspiring to illegally export US military technology back home.
Tao Li, 39, violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and was sentenced to 40 months behind bars last week.
Between December 2016 and January 2018, he’s said to have worked with others back in China to buy radiation-hardened power amplifiers and supervisory circuits — components used for military and space applications due to their ability to withstand extreme heat and high levels of radiation.
These components would ordinarily require a license to export out of the US, although the Commerce Department does not grant such licenses to China.
To try and circumvent the ban, Li used various aliases to contact individuals in US companies, seeking to obtain the parts, agreeing to pay a “risk fee” to the firms if they agreed to export the components to China.
Li wired funds from an account in China to a bank in Arizona to complete a deal, before undercover agents stepped in, lured him to the US and arrested him at Los Angeles International Airport in September 2018. Agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Office of Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) led this operation.
“This case is one of many involving illegal attempts to take US technology to China. Li attempted to procure highly sensitive US military technology in violation of our export control laws,” said assistant attorney general John Demers.
“Such laws are in place to protect our national security, and the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce them. We don’t take these crimes lightly and we will continue to pursue them.”
The news comes just days after a new CrowdStrike report revealed the true extent of China’s efforts to gain a technological and military advantage over the US. It detailed a multi-year campaign involving forced technology transfer, joint ventures, physical theft of IP from insiders and cyber-enabled espionage which helped a state-run company build the C919 commercial airliner.
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