Feds arrest four people in two alleged espionage cases

DOJ claims that China received info about U.S. aerospace programs, military sales to Taiwan

Federal authorities today announced the arrests of four people in two separate espionage cases for allegedly passing information to the Chinese government.

The U.S. Department of Justice detailed the arrests in two separate press releases. One case involves a former Boeing Co. employee who was charged with economic espionage and other crimes, while the other involves three people who face charges that they conspired to disclose national defense information.

In the Boeing case, the DOJ claimed that Dongfan Chung, a 72-year-old resident of Orange, Calif., stole trade secrets related to the Space Shuttle, the C-17 military transport plane and the Delta IV rocket while working at Rockwell International Corp. and then Boeing, which bought Rockwell's defense and space unit in 1996. Chung sent the information to contacts in the Chinese government, according to the DOJ, which said that a grand jury indicted him last Wednesday on eight counts of economic espionage.

Chung was also indicted on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, and for making false statements to the FBI. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine on each of the economic espionage charges alone, the DOJ said.

Thomas O'Brien, U.S. attorney for the central district of California, said in a statement that Chung "is accused of stealing restricted technology that had been developed over many years by engineers who were sworn to protect their work product because it represented trade secrets." Disclosing that information to an entity like the People's Republic of China could "compromise our national security," O'Brien added.

The DOJ described Chung as a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chinese origin who held a secret-level security clearance while working at both Rockwell and Boeing. He retired from Boeing in 2002 but returned the following year as a contractor and continued working at the company until September 2006.

According to the announcement of his arrest, Chung began receiving "tasking" letters from individuals in China as far back as 1979, instructing him to collect specific technical information related to various U.S. aerospace programs. Chung's responses to some of the letters referenced engineering manuals he had collected and sent to China, the DOJ said. Between 1985 and 2003, he also allegedly made multiple trips to China, where he delivered lectures on the aerospace programs and met with Chinese officials and agents.

Chung's Chinese handlers recommended that he also use the services of a Downey, Calif., resident named Chi Mak to transmit information, the DOJ noted. Mak and four of his family members were convicted last year on charges of passing defense information to the Chinese government. Mak is scheduled to be sentenced on March 24, according to the DOJ.

In the other case that was announced today, the DOJ arrested a U.S. Department of Defense employee and two New Orleans residents for an alleged espionage scheme that began in January 2006.

Tai Shen Kuo, 58, and Yu Xin Kang, 33, both of New Orleans, were indicted for conspiring to disclose national defense information to a foreign government, while Gregg William Bergersen, a 51-year-old resident of Alexandria, Va., who works as a weapons systems policy analyst at the DOD's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, was charged with conspiracy to disclose national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it.

According to the DOJ's statement, Kuo, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, gathered classified documents and other information on behalf of the Chinese government from Bergersen, sometimes in return for undetermined cash payments. Most of the information pertained to U.S. military sales to Taiwan, the DOJ said. Kang, a Chinese citizen who has permanent residency status in the U.S., allegedly acted as a conduit between Kuo and a government official in China.

She and Kuo both face life in prison if convicted. Bergersen faces up to 10 years in prison for his part in the alleged conspiracy, the DOJ said.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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