Three Chinese Nationals Arrested for Scheme to Steal and Illegally Export Military-Grade Semiconductors

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that three Chinese nationals have been arrested on federal criminal complaints in connection with a scheme to obtain and illegally export sophisticated semiconductors stolen from the U.S. military.  DAOFU ZHANG, 50;JIANG GUANGHOU YAN, also known as “Ben,” 33; and XIANFENG ZUO, 37, were arrested this morning in Milford.

The three defendants made initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah A.L. Merriam in New Haven and were detained.

As alleged in the criminal complaints, federal law enforcement agents began investigating YAN and a Chinese company known as HK Potential in 2012 for trafficking in counterfeit semiconductors.  In October 2014 and in March 2015, YAN sold a total of 45 counterfeit Intel microprocessors to an undercover agent who had advised YAN that the components would be used on a U.S. Navy contract involving submarines.

The complaints further allege that, in July 2015, YAN asked whether the undercover agent could obtain 22 Xilinx semiconductors, military grade, for which YAN would pay $37,000 each.  After the undercover agent advised YAN that the Xilinx components could be stolen from a U.S. Navy base, YAN offered to provide fake Xilinx components that could be substituted for the stolen components in order to prevent detection of the theft.  When asked whether the fake Xilinx components would work, YAN replied that “the fake one just look the same” but were “not ok for function.”  In November 2015, YAN shipped eight of the fake Xilinx components to the undercover agent.

ZHANG, YAN, and ZUO traveled to the U.S. on December 6, and they were arrested today attempting to take delivery of the Xilinx semiconductors from the undercover agent.

“The Justice Department and our federal law enforcement partners are committed to prosecuting those who would supply our armed forces with counterfeit electronic components, as well as those who attempt to steal sophisticated U.S. military components and distribute them to places unknown,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly.  “I thank the collaborative efforts of our partners in this long-term investigation, including the DCIS, HSI, FBI, U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations.”

The complaint charges ZHANG, YAN, and ZUO with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment and a $1 million fine; and receipt of stolen government property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.  ZHANG and YAN are also charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment and a $2 million fine; and mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.  In addition, ZHANG and ZUO are charged with conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This matter is being investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Chang.

AirAsia QZ8501 technical failures under scrutiny

The conclusion from Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) on Tuesday (December 1) that the circumstances around last year’s crash of an AirAsia Indonesia operated A320 were brought about by a faulty component has once again shone the spotlight on aircraft maintenance procedures. Flight QZ8501, which was 40 minutes into its journey from Surabaya to Singapore before contact was lost on December 28, 2014, was downed following a series of events which began with a fault in the connected circuitry in its rudder warning systems. This led to its crew attempting to reset the computer system which then caused the accidental disabling of the aircraft’s autopilot function. The NTSC said the aircraft then entered “a prolonged stall condition that was beyond the capability of the flight crew to recover” which resulted in the crash and the death of all 162 passengers. The problem with the rudder system wasn’t unknown to maintenance staff; with the issue reportedly flagged up 23 times in 2014 with resetting the system was one of a few methods used to rectify it. Because of the repetitive and unresolved nature of the issues, the blame has been placed on maintenance technicians for causing the cockpit confusion that eventually led to the aircraft crashing into the Java Sea. This conclusion differed to the one from earlier this year when inclement weather conditions were suspected. With both maintenance and crew apportioned cited, attention has now turned to what changes – if any – will result from this.

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