List of Chinese spy cases in the United States

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Cases of individuals spying on the United States of America on behalf of the intelligence services of the People's Republic of China.

Larry Wu-Tai Chin[edit]

Larry Wu-Tai Chin worked in the U.S. intelligence community for nearly 35 years while providing China with classified information.[1] Chin was recruited as a spy by a Chinese Communist official in 1948; an interpreter at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai,[2] he was later hired by the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service. After he became an American citizen in 1965 he was transferred to Arlington, Virginia, where he had access to reports from intelligence agents abroad and translations of documents acquired by CIA officers in China.[2] Chin sold classified National Intelligence Estimates pertaining to China and Southeast Asia to China,[2] enabling the country to discover weaknesses in its intelligence agencies and compromise U.S. intelligence activities in the region. He provided sensitive information about Richard Nixon’s plans for normalizing relations with China two years before the president visited the country. In February 1986, Chin was convicted of 17 counts of espionage, conspiracy and tax evasion, but committed suicide before he could be sentenced.[2]

Katrina Leung[edit]

In 1982 FBI special agent James Smith recruited Katrina Leung, a 28-year-old Chinese immigrant, to work in Chinese counterintelligence.[3] Leung, a prominent business consultant, was valued for her contacts with high-level Chinese officials.[2] Smith and Leung became involved in a sexual relationship lasting nearly two decades.[3] At this time, Smith made classified documents available to Leung; she copied them,[3] providing China with information on nuclear, military and political issues.[4] Another FBI agent, William Cleveland, also became sexually involved with Leung.[3] On January 6, 2005, U.S. District Judge Florence Marie Cooper dismissed Leung's case on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

Peter Lee[edit]

Lee, a physicist born in China who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and later for TRW Inc., pleaded guilty to lying on security-clearance forms and passing classified national-defense information to Chinese scientists on business trips to Beijing.[5] He compromised classified weapons information, microwave submarine-detection technology and other national-defense data,[2] and the Department of Energy later concluded that his disclosure of classified information "was of significant material assistance to the PRC in their nuclear weapons development program ... This analysis indicated that Dr. Lee's activities have directly enhanced the PRC nuclear weapons program to the detriment of U.S. national security."[2]

Chi Mak[edit]

Chi Mak is a Chinese-born engineer who worked for L-3 Communications, a California-based defense contractor,[6] as a support engineer on Navy quiet-drive propulsion technology.[6] According to recovered documents, he was instructed by his Chinese contacts to join "more professional associations and participate in more seminars with 'special subject matters' and to compile special conference materials on disk".[6] He was instructed to gather information on space-based electromagnetic intercept systems, space-launched magnetic-levitation platforms, electromagnetic gun or artillery systems, submarine torpedoes, electromagnetic launch systems, aircraft carrier electronic systems, water-jet propulsion, ship submarine propulsion, power-system configuration technology, weapons-system modularization, technologies to defend against nuclear attack, shipboard electromagnetic motor systems, shipboard internal and external communications systems and information on the next generation of U.S. destroyers.[6] He copied and sent sensitive documents on U.S. Navy ships, submarines and weapons to China by courier. In 2008, he was sentenced to a ​24 12-year prison term for espionage.[7]

Moo Ko-Suen[edit]

In May 2006, Ko-Suen (Bill) Moo pleaded guilty to being a covert agent of China. Moo attempted to purchase United States military equipment to send to China when he was arrested by undercover United States agents. Some of the equipment included an F-16 fighter jet engine, an AGM-129A cruise missile, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engines and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles.[8]

Wen Ho Lee[edit]

Wen Ho Lee is a Taiwanese-American scientist who worked for the University of California at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He created simulations of nuclear explosions for the purpose of scientific inquiry and to improve the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In December 1999, a federal grand jury indicted him of stealing secrets about the arsenal for China.

After federal investigators could not prove the initial accusations, the government conducted a separate investigation. It could only charge Lee with improper handling of restricted data, part of the original 59-count indictment to which he pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain. In June 2006, Lee received $1.6 million from the federal government and five media organizations as partial settlement of a civil suit he filed against them for leaking his name to the press before charges were filed against him. At the conclusion of the case, Presiding federal judge James A. Parker stated that he was misled "by the executive branch of our government through its Department of Justice, by its Federal Bureau of Investigation and by its United States attorney". The judge stated that while he couldn't speak on behalf of the executive branch "I sincerely apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner you were held in custody by the executive branch." [9]

Fei Ye and Ming Zhong[edit]

Fei Ye, a U.S. citizen; and Ming Zhong, a permanent resident of the United States; were arrested at the San Francisco International Airport on November 23, 2001. They were accused of stealing trade secrets in designing a computer microprocessor to benefit China, although prosecutors did not allege that the Chinese government knew of their activities. In December 2002, they were charged with a total of ten counts, including conspiracy; economic espionage; possession of stolen trade secrets; and foreign transportation of stolen property. In 2006 (five years after their arrest), they pleaded guilty to two counts each of economic espionage. In 2008, they were sentenced to a year in prison. The maximum sentence is 30 years however prosecutors asked for less because of their cooperation. The case resulted in the first convictions under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.[10][11]

Lan Lee and Yuefei Ge[edit]

In 2007, two Silicon Valley engineers, Lan Lee and Yuefei Ge, were charged with economic espionage for stealing microchip design from NetLogic Microsystems, for the benefit of the Chinese military, the People's Liberation Army. [12] Their indictment stated that the two formed a company named SICO Microsystems Inc. to facilitate the alleged theft with the possible involvement of the Chinese government. [13] Their criminal trial started in October 2009. While prosecutors promised the jurors a "treasure trove" of evidence against the "traitors" and "spies", the defense stated the two just wanted to start their own company with their own ideas. [14] After a month long trial, a federal jury acquitted the two defendants on two counts and were leaning towards acquitting the two by a vote of 9:3 on two most serious counts of economic espionage. Jurors said the U.S. government failed to prove the NetLogic data was even a trade secret and much less aimed to benefit China. [15] On October 27, 2010, after years of ordeal, the indictment against Lee and Ge were dismissed in its entirety by U.S. District Judge James Ware. [16] During jury selection, the U.S. government attempted to remove the sole Chinese-American juror named Yuqiang, but defense successfully argued that he was targeted because of his racial background.[17]

Anne Lockwood, Michael Haehnel, and Fuping Liu[edit]

In February 2009, three former employees of Metaldyne Corporation were sentenced to prison terms in federal court in connection with a conspiracy to steal confidential information from the company, according to Acting United States Attorney Terrence Berg. Anne Lockwood, formerly a Vice President for Sales at Metaldyne, her husband Michael Haehnel, formerly a senior engineer at Metaldyne, and Fuping Liu, a former metallurgist for Metaldyne.[18] Lockwood and Liu both pleaded guilty on September 15, 2008 to the main count of the Indictment, conspiracy to steal confidential and proprietary information belonging to Metaldyne, and using the stolen information in order to assist a Chinese competitor, the Chongqing Huafu Industry Company, (“Huafu”) of Chongqing, China to compete against Metaldyne in the field of powdered metal parts. Haehnel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense charging him with unlawfully accessing stored electronic records.[19] Beginning in May 2004, Lockwood and Liu developed a business plan to help Huafu compete against Metaldyne in the production of powdered metal products. Lockwood obtained both electronic and paper copies of confidential and proprietary information pertaining to Metaldyne’s internal costs and its manufacturing processes, and then provided some of that information to Huafu, in China, to assist it in competing against Metaldyne. Lockwood received 30 months in prison, Haehnel received 6 months in prison, and Liu received 9 months.[20]

Bo Jiang[edit]

Bo Jiang, a researcher working on "source code for high technology imaging" at NASA's Langley Research Center, was arrested for lying to a federal officer on March 16, 2013 at Washington Dulles International Airport before returning to China. Jiang allegedly told the FBI that he was carrying fewer computer storage devices than he was. He was accused of espionage by Representative Frank Wolf, and was investigated for possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act.[21] An affidavit said that Jiang had previously brought a NASA laptop with sensitive information to China.[22]

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leonard ordered Jiang released after a federal prosecutor acknowledged that there was no evidence that he possessed sensitive, secret or classified material.[23] According to Jiang's lawyer, Fernando Groene — a former federal prosecutor who practices out of Williamsburg, Wolf made a "scapegoat" of his client.[24] On May 2, Jiang was cleared in federal court of the felony charge of lying to federal investigators.[25][26] Jiang was nevertheless convicted for downloading copyrighted movies, television shows and sexually explicit images on the NASA-owned laptop.[27]

Hua Jun Zhao[edit]

Hua Jun Zhao, 42, was accused of stealing a cancer-research compound from a Medical College of Wisconsin office in Milwaukee in an attempt to deliver it to Zhejiang University, according to an FBI agent’s March 29, 2013 affidavit.[28] Presiding judge Charles N. Clevert found no evidence that "Zhao had intended to defraud or cause any loss to Medical College of Wisconsin, or even to make money for himself".[29] Zhao was convicted for "accessing a computer without authorization and obtaining information worth more than $5,000" for accessing his research on university-owned computers after school officials seized his own laptop, portable memory devices and papers.[30] According to a sentencing memorandum from Zhao's attorney, the data he downloaded was his own research, though it did belong to the Medical College. Judge Charles N. Clevert adopted the time-served sentence after finding no evidence that Zhao had intended to defraud or cause any loss to Medical College of Wisconsin, or even to make money for himself. [31]

Walter Liew aka Liu Yuanxuan[edit]

In July 2014, Walter Lian-Heen Liew (aka Liu Yuanxuan) was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for violations of the Economic Espionage Act, tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud, and obstruction of justice. Liew was convicted in March 2014 on each of the twenty counts charged. His company was found by the jury to steal trade secrets from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company to state-owned companies of China, Pangang Group companies.[32]

Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li[edit]

Two former Eli Lilly and Co. employees, Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li, were arrested in Oct 2013 under the charges of theft and conspiracy to commit theft involving drugs that Lilly was developing. The indictment alleged Cao and Li emailed sensitive experimental drug information worth $55 Million to a competing Chinese drug company. U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett and his deputy, Cynthia Ridgeway characterized the case as "a crime against the nation" and called the defendants as "traitors". In December, 2014, the U.S. attorney's office dropped charges "in the interests of justice".[33][34]

Xiafen "Sherry" Chen[edit]

Xiafen "Sherry" Chen, 59, was a hydrologist for the federal government in Ohio. She was falsely accused of spying and arrested in October 2014.[35] She was originally charged with four felonies, including that she had illegally downloaded data about national infrastructure and made false statement of telling federal agents that she last seen a Chinese official in 2011, not 2012. Five months later (in March 2015), persuaded by a lawyer, Peter R. Zeidenberg, a partner at Arent Fox in Washington, prosecutors dropped all charges against Mrs. Chen without explanation.[36] On April 23, 2018, Chief Administrative Judge Michele Szary Schroeder ordered the U.S. Department of Commerce to reinstate Chen's employment, citing "gross injustice" in her case. [37]

Xiaoxing Xi[edit]

In May 2015, the United States Department of Justice accused Temple University professor Xiaoxing Xi of sending restricted American technology to China, specifically, the design of a pocket heater used in superconductor research. Xi was arrested by about a dozen FBI agents at his home, and faced charges carrying a maximum penalty of 80 years in prison and a $1 million fine.[38][39] In September 2015, however, the DOJ dropped all charges against him after leading scientists, including a co-inventor of the pocket heater, provided affidavits that the schematics that Xi shared with Chinese scientists were not restricted technology, and not for a pocket heater.[38][39] According to Xi's lawyer Peter Zeidenberg, the government did not understand the complicated science and failed to consult with experts before arresting him.[38] He said that the information Xi shared, as part of "typical academic collaboration", was about a different device, which Xi co-invented and is not restricted technology.[40] Xi has since sued the FBI, accusing the latter of falsifying evidence against him. [41]

Szuhsiung "Allen" Ho[edit]

Szuhsiung Ho, aka Allen Ho, 66, a naturalized U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully engage or participate in the production or development of special nuclear material outside the U.S., without the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in violation of the Atomic Energy Act.[42] In April 2016, a federal grand jury issued a two-count indictment against Ho; China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC), the largest nuclear power company in China, and Energy Technology International (ETI), a Delaware corporation. At the time of the indictment Ho was a nuclear engineer, employed as a consultant by CGNPC and was also the owner of ETI. CGNPC specialized in the development and manufacture of nuclear reactors and was controlled by China’s State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. Born in China, Ho is a naturalized U.S. citizen with dual residency in Delaware and China.[43]

Edward C. Lin[edit]

Naval officer Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin will serve six years in prison for mishandling classified information in an attempt to impress women[44]. Lin pleaded guilty in May 2017 to mishandling classified information and not reporting foreign contacts relating to his disclosure of secrets to a Taiwanese woman working for a political party and an undercover female FBI agent. He thought the agent, known as Katherine Wu, was a teacher in the middle of a turbulent marriage and decided to share classified info with her in August and September 2015 to impress her.[45] After an investigation beginning in January 2014, authorities arrested him in September 2015 as he was on his way to meet a woman in China. The investigation found that Lin did not report ties to Taiwanese naval officers or his relationships with Chinese women. He met one of the women at a massage parlor in Honolulu. When Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin was first arrested at the Honolulu airport in 2015 on a flight to China, military investigators thought they had uncovered an espionage case of epic proportions – a Mandarin-speaking Asian-American military officer accused of leaking highly sensitive U.S. military secrets to Chinese and Taiwanese officials.[46]

Kun Shan Chun[edit]

In January 2017, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary B. McCord, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that Kun Shan Chun, a/k/a “Joey Chun,” was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison and pay a $10,000 fine based on his conviction for acting in the United States as an agent of the People’s Republic of China (“China”), without providing prior notice to the Attorney General. CHUN pled guilty on August 1, 2016[47]. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero imposed today’s sentence. Kun Chun, a native of China and naturalized U.S. citizen, worked as an FBI Technician since 1997 and had Top Secret clearance.[48]

Candace Marie Claiborne[edit]

On March 28, 2017, The F.B.I. arrested a veteran State Department employee who concealed her extensive contacts with Chinese intelligence agents, who for years lavished her with thousands of dollars in gifts. Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, of Washington, was charged with felony obstruction and lying to the F.B.I. after her ties to the Chinese were uncovered, the authorities said. Prosecutors did not disclose where or when the Chinese first approached Ms. Claiborne, but did reveal she had once served in Beijing and Shanghai.[49] “Candace Marie Claiborne is a U.S. State Department employee who possesses a Top Secret security clearance and allegedly failed to report her contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents who provided her with thousands of dollars of gifts and benefits,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit. Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division.”[50]

Kevin Mallory[edit]

In June 2017, Kevin Patrick Mallory was arrested and charged under the Espionage Act on charges of performing espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.[51][52] Mallory allegedly was given special communications devices for communicating documents to Chinese intelligence agents, including documents classified as Top Secret.[51][53] The individuals alleged to be working for China's intelligence services represented themselves as working for the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.[52][54] Some of the material in his possession is alleged to contain sensitive information on human intelligence sources.[55]

Mallory graduated from Brigham Young University in 1981, and resided in Leesburg, Virginia.[54][56] Prior to his arrest, Mallory had served in the United States Army and worked as a Special Agent for the Diplomatic Security Service from 1987 to 1990.[57][51] Mallory worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency at some point in his career.[55] He was a self-employed consultant for GlobalEx, LLC.[58][52] Mallory had previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (as a case officer between 1990 and 1996, and as a contractor between 2010 and 2012) and at the American Institute in Taiwan.[55][56][59]

On July 7, 2017, during preliminary court proceedings, U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III ordered Mallory's bond revoked, judging him to be a flight risk and a potential threat to national security. The FBI cracked his cell phone and retrieved eight documents, some of which were top secret. In a call to his son, he had attempted to arrange to secrete case evidence in his home.[60] Mallory was convicted on June 8, 2018, of 4 charges: conspiracy to deliver, attempted delivery, delivery of defense information to aid a foreign government, and making material false statements. Mallory faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when he is sentenced on September 21, 2018.[61][62]

Jerry Chun Shing Lee[edit]

In January 2018, the F.B.I. arrested former C.I.A. officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee, charging him with unlawful possession of defense information. He may have compromised the identities of numerous CIA spies in China.[63][64] Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had worked for the CIA with a top-secret security clearance from 1994 until 2007. Several years after his departure from the CIA, China began capturing and killing U.S. informants. Officials in the U.S. began investigating whether a mole was responsible for outing the identities of sources working with the U.S. In May 2018, Lee was formally charged with conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of China.[65] According to the indictment, he met two intelligence officers from China’s Ministry of State Security in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, in April 2010, and they gave him “a gift of $100,000 cash in exchange for his cooperation”, with the promise that “they would take care of him for life”.[66] Lee received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash that he deposited into his HSBC bank accounts in Hong Kong between 2010 and 2013,[66] the same time the CIA lost 18 to 20 Chinese informants who were killed on imprisoned for providing sensitive information to the U.S. government.[66] Lee started working for a cigarette company in Hong Kong in 2007, the same year he left the CIA. In 2009, Japan Tobacco International terminated his contract amid suspicions that he was leaking sensitive information about its operations to Chinese authorities. He then set up his own company, also related to the import of cigarettes, which did not succeed. According to court papers, Lee’s business partner in Hong Kong arranged meetings and passed messages from Chinese intelligence officers to him. From June 2013 to September 2015, the former CIA agent worked for the cosmetics company Estée Lauder. At the time of his arrest, he was the head of security at the international auction house Christie’s in Hong Kong.[66]

Xu Jiaqiang[edit]

Xu Jiaqiang plead guilty to charges of economic espionage, theft, and possession and distribution of trade secrets, after having been accused of stealing the source code to IBM software, with the intention of benefiting the National Health and Family Planning Commission.[67][68] On January 18, 2018, Xu was sentenced to five years in prison by District Judge Kenneth M. Karas.[69] Xu previously pled guilty to all six counts with which he was charged.

Shuren Qin[edit]

In June 2018, Qin was arrested on accusations that he shipped 78 hydrophones for use in anti-submarine warfare to the Northwestern Polytechnical University, which is affiliated with the People's Liberation Army.[70][71]

Ron Rockwell Hansen[edit]

On June 4, 2018, Ron Rockwell Hansen, a U.S. Army veteran and former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, was arrested on federal charges including the attempted transmission of national defense information to the People’s Republic of China. The FBI agents took Hansen into custody while he was on his way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle to board a connecting flight to China [72]. Fluent in Mandarin and Russian, he was recruited in 2006 to work for the DIA as a case officer, someone who recruits and manages foreign agents. Hansen, who is from Syracuse, Utah, received at least $800,000 from China between 2013 and 2016 when he had serious financial trouble, and could not explain the excessive cash when he carried it into the U.S. Based in a commercial office in Beijing, Hansen made contact with Chinese intelligence and over several years tried to pitch himself to the DIA and FBI as a double agent who would act ultimately for the US, the indictment alleged [73]. Hansen is charged with attempted espionage, acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, bulk cash smuggling, structuring monetary transactions, and smuggling goods from the United States. If convicted, Mr. Hansen faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. [74].

See also[edit]


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