WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday said a Chinese citizen who tried to smuggle high-tech American military equipment into China will spend 30 months in federal prison.
Kan Chen pleaded guilty in March to a list of conspiracy charges, including violations of the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, as well as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Chen, 26, a Chinese national, was arrested last year on the Pacific island of Saipan following an eight-month U.S. investigation, Justice officials said.
According to court documents, for about two years Chen was involved in the illegal export of over 180 items valued at more than $275,000, from the United States to China. Among the items were sophisticated night vision and thermal imaging scopes that can be mounted on military rifles.
Investigators said they weren’t certain exactly where the equipment was ultimately headed for.
“The United States will simply never know the true harm of Chen’s conduct because the end users of the rifle scopes and other technology are unknown,” U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III said. “Individuals who seek to profit by illegally exporting sensitive U.S. military technology will be prosecuted. It is important that we take all necessary steps to prevent our military technology and equipment from being exported and possibly used against our service members and our allies overseas.”
After Chen gets out of prison, he will endure three additional years of supervised release.
Authorities said the reason for Chen’s prosecution and punishment is obvious.
“These sophisticated technologies are highly sought after by our adversaries,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Gregory Nevano said. “They were developed to give the United States and its allies a distinct military advantage, which is why HSI will continue to aggressively target the individuals who might illegally procure and sell these items.”
Prosecutors argued that Chen’s actions were especially harmful to the United States because he didn’t care who he sold the equipment to — meaning anyone from foreign officials to terrorist militants could have gotten their hands on the weapons.
This case was investigated by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation, the U.S. Department of Commerce-Bureau of Industry and the Security’s Office of Export Enforcement.