According to a Department of Justice release, 39-year-old Tao Li previously pleaded guilty to the crime, which is a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Following his 40-month sentence, he will undergo three years of supervised release.
Between December 2016 and January 2018, Li attempted to purchase radiation-hardened power amplifiers and supervisory circuits and illegally export them from the US to China. As the components are designed to withstand extreme levels of radiation and heat, they are mostly used in military and space applications. As such, the parts required an export license from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Li used multiple aliases to contact individuals in the US, including representatives of US-based companies, when trying to obtain the components. He agreed to pay a “risk fee” to illegally export the items to China and paid for them by wiring money from a Chinese bank account to an account in Arizona.
Li was arrested in September 2018 at Los Angeles airport while traveling from China to Arizona to meet one of his contacts, who in reality was an undercover agent taking part in a sting operation.
“This case is one of many involving illegal attempts to take U.S. technology to China. Li attempted to procure highly sensitive U.S. military technology in violation of our export control laws. Such laws are in place to protect our national security, and the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce them,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers. “We don’t take these crimes lightly and we will continue to pursue them.”
Back in June, AR headset maker Magic Leap claimed an ex-employee stole information from the organization to create a Chinese copy. The US says Chinese firms have spent years stealing IPs from American companies, adding that the practice has contributed to the current trade war. Last November, the Justice Department said it was clamping down on the problem by working alongside the FBI.