A Pomona woman was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that accuse her of conspiring to procure and illegally export sensitive space communications technology to her native China.
Si “Cathy” Chen, 32, was expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on April 27 and unsealed Tuesday following her arrest.
The 14-count indictment accuses Chen of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which controls and restricts the export of certain goods and technology from the United States to foreign nations.
Chen is also charged with conspiracy, money laundering, making false statements on an immigration application, and using a forged passport.
According to the indictment, from March 2013 to December 2015, Chen purchased and smuggled sensitive items to China without obtaining licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce that are required under the Economic Powers Act.
Those items included components commonly used in military communications “jammers” from which Chen removed the export-control warning stickers prior to shipping, court papers allege.
Additionally, Chen is suspected of smuggling communications devices worth more than $100,000 that are commonly used in space communications applications, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment further describes how Chen allegedly received payments for the illegally exported products through an account held at a bank in China by a family member.
“Federal export laws are designed to protect American interests by preventing the proliferation of technology that may fall into the wrong hands,” said acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “We will vigorously pursue those who traffic items that could harm our national security if they land in the wrong hands.”
In addition to the export violations, Chen is charged with employing several aliases and using a forged passport in an effort to conceal her alleged smuggling activities on behalf of unnamed co-conspirators in China.
The indictment alleges the defendant used a Chinese passport bearing her photo and a false name — “Chunping Ji” — to rent an office in Pomona, where she took delivery of the export-controlled items. After receiving the goods, Chen shipped the devices to Hong Kong in parcels that bore her false name, along with false product descriptions and monetary values, all done in an effort to avoid attracting law enforcement scrutiny, prosecutors allege.
If convicted of the 14 charges in the indictment, Chen would face up to 150 years in prison, prosecutors said.
—City News Service
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