A Chinese national living in California has been jailed over a scheme to smuggle sensitive space and military communications technology to China.
Si Chen was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison Monday, after she pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which restricts the export of certain goods to foreign nations, according to a Department of Justice statement.
Chen, a 33-year-old resident of Pomona, a suburb of Los Angeles, was arrested in May 2017 and has been in custody since. She also pleaded guilty to money laundering and using a forged passport.
According to prosecutors, between 2013 and 2015 Chen purchased and smuggled numerous sensitive items to China without the proper export license, including components used in military communications jammers and devices used for space communications.
“This defendant knowingly participated in a plot to secretly send items with military applications to China,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.
“The smuggled items could be used in a number of damaging ways, including in equipment that could jam our satellite communications. We will aggressively target all persons who provide foreign agents with technology in violation of US law.”
Joseph Macias, a Homeland Security agent who worked on the case, added that the “export of sensitive technology items to China or anywhere else in the world is tightly regulated for good reason.”
“One of HSI’s top enforcement priorities is preventing US military products and sensitive technology from falling into the hands of those who might seek to harm America or its interests,” he said.
Chen went by several aliases, prosecutors said, including “Chunping Ji,” for which she acquired a forged passport and rented an office in Pomona to take delivery of the export-controlled items. From Pomona, the goods were shipped to Hong Kong and then on to China.
Court documents mention at least three unindicted co-conspirators who worked with Chen to smuggle the items to Hong Kong.