Chinese national jailed for attempting to export military tech from US to China

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

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.

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Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
Unfortunately, one of the prices you pay for having a "free country" is that it's a lot easier to steal stuff... Still, I'd take living in North America over China any day of the week...

 
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quadibloc

TS Addict
Only 40 months in prison, instead of 40 years, for attempted espionage? What is the world coming to?

Oh, wait a moment: was there ever any evidence he engaged in that activity without encouragement from people working for the police in a sting operation? The police are there to find people who are committing crimes, not people who are weak enough that they could commit crimes. Still, the case wasn't thrown out as entrapment.
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
Only 40 months in prison, instead of 40 years, for attempted espionage? What is the world coming to?

Oh, wait a moment: was there ever any evidence he engaged in that activity without encouragement from people working for the police in a sting operation? The police are there to find people who are committing crimes, not people who are weak enough that they could commit crimes. Still, the case wasn't thrown out as entrapment.
Are you for real?
 

toooooot

TS Evangelist
Identify top 100 tech they wanna steal.
Make it look like they can be purchased in grey market illegally.
Set accounts for real money they wanna pay.
And milk them, milk them for as long as they got money.

P.S. The tech doesn't need to be real, just realistic enough to pass for it visually.
 

quadibloc

TS Addict
Are you for real?
I see I didn't read the story carefully enough. He travelled to China, and the FBI agent doing the sting was apparently posing as an intermediary buying the chips from American companies for him. So he was in communication with real people in China seeking to acquire these devices in violation of American law.
In which case, 40 months is definitely much too short, one would expect him to go to jail for years and years. Thise things could be used to kill Americans.
 

DrSuess

TS Rookie
Only 40 months in prison, instead of 40 years, for attempted espionage? What is the world coming to?

Oh, wait a moment: was there ever any evidence he engaged in that activity without encouragement from people working for the police in a sting operation? The police are there to find people who are committing crimes, not people who are weak enough that they could commit crimes. Still, the case wasn't thrown out as entrapment.
What got me was "he will undergo three years of supervised release." Why not remove and bar him from the country he is a Chinese national.