Military technology engineer sentenced to 38 months in prison for taking his work computer to China

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A Chinese-American engineer has been sentenced to 38 months in prison on charges of exporting sensitive military technology to China, the US Department of Justice said.

Wei Sun, 49, who worked in Tucson for 10 years as an electrical engineer with Raytheon Missiles and Defense, had previously pleaded guilty to the charges. Raytheon Missiles and Defense develops and produces missile systems for use by the United States military.

During his employment with the company, Sun had access to information directly related to defense-related technology. Some of this constituted defense technical information, defined as “defense articles”, is controlled and its export without a license is prohibited under the Arms Export Control Law (AECA) and the International Arms Traffic Regulation (ITAR).

According to federal prosecutors, from December 2018 to January 2019, Sun traveled from the United States to China on a personal trip. On that trip, Sun brought unclassified technical information on his computer provided by the company, including data associated with an advanced missile guidance system that was controlled and regulated by the AECA and ITAR.

Despite being trained to handle these materials correctly, Sun knowingly transported the information to China without an export license in violation of the AECA and ITAR.

“Sun was a highly skilled engineer who had been entrusted with sensitive missile technology that he knew he could not legally transfer into hostile hands,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said Wednesday.

“However, it handed over that controlled technology to China,” he said.

The United States relies on private contractors to help build its “unrivaled defense technology,” said US Attorney Michael Bailey.

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“People trying to expose such technology to hostile foreign powers should know that prison awaits them. The close cooperation of the victim defense contractor and the dedication of the FBI made this case a success,” he added.

“This is not a laptop that was taken by mistake on a trip, it was the illegal export of American missile technology to China,” said Deputy Director Alan E Kohler, Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

The engineer pleaded guilty to taking the laptop, but from there to selling information … you don’t have to take a computer to sell information, I say …