- Tao Li, 39, is given 40 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to export ‘military and space-grade’ components to China without a licence
- He was arrested in September 2018 at Los Angeles International Airport while travelling from China to Arizona to meet with an undercover agent
A US district judge has sentenced a Chinese national accused of using multiple aliases and conspiring to illegally export "highly sensitive" US military technology to China to 40 months in prison.
The US Justice Department said on Friday that Tao Li, 39, tried to procure "military and space-grade technology" in violation of the US export control laws. Judge Diane J. Humetewa of the District of Arizona handed down the sentence, which included three years of supervised release after the prison term, on Wednesday.
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Li had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to export the technology to China without a licence in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The act authorises the US president to regulate international commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to a threat to the country.
According to the Justice Department, from December 2016 to January 2018 Li worked with other individuals in China to purchase radiation-hardened power amplifiers and supervisory circuits.
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Li, who lived in China, used multiple aliases to contact individuals in the US, including representatives of US-based private companies, in a bid to obtain the electronic components, the department said.
Those components are capable of withstanding significant levels of radiation and extreme heat and are primarily used for military and space applications. An export licence from the US Department of Commerce is required before those parts can be sent out of the country.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"This case is one of many involving illegal attempts to take US technology to China," John C. Demers, the assistant US attorney general for national security, said. "The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce them … We don't take these crimes lightly, and we will continue to pursue them."
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Li had also allegedly agreed to pay a "risk fee" to illegally export the electronic components to China. In furtherance of his request, he wired money from a bank account in China to a bank account in Arizona, the Justice Department said.
Li was arrested in September 2018 at Los Angeles International Airport, while travelling from China to Arizona to meet with one of the undercover agents.
The investigation was conducted jointly by the US Homeland Security Department's Homeland Security Investigations unit and the US Defence Department's Criminal Investigative Service.
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