A Chinese woman has been jailed in the United States after pleading guilty to smuggling sensitive space and military communications technology back to China, the US Justice Department says.
Si Chen, 33, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison on Monday, after admitting in July that she had conspired to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a law that bars exporting certain goods to other nations.
“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,” he added.
Chen, who used to live in on the suburbs of Los Angeles, California, was taken into custody in May last year.
According to prosecutors, Chen purchased and smuggled, among other things, numerous sensitive items used in military communications jammers and devices used for space communications between 2013 and 2015.
She has also pleaded guilty to money laundering and using a fake passport.
Joseph Macias, a Homeland Security agent, said that Washington had “good reasons” to keep a close eye on trade with China.
“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.
The Chinese woman had rented an office in Pomona to take delivery of the export-controlled items before shipping them 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.
Chen’s case came a week after the US arrested another Chinese national on similar charges.
Ji Chaoqun, a 27-year-old electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, is accused of acting as an “illegal agent” for a provincial department of China’s top espionage agency, the Ministry of State Security.
Washington has long been accusing Beijing of spying on major American institutions.
In June, former CIA case Officer Kevin Mallory was found guilty of passing the spying agency’s secret and top secret documents to Chinese intelligence agents, in a case prosecutors warned was “no isolated incident.”
Tensions are already running high between the US and China due to a growing trade war. US President Donald Trump has further tested China by approving a $330 million arms deal with Taiwan and stepping up US military presence in the South China Sea.