By Thomas Claburn
March 25, 2008
A Chinese-born engineer convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. military
secrets to the People's Republic of China was sentenced Monday to 24
years and five months in federal prison.
Chi Mak, 65, of Downey, Calif., was formerly employed by defense
contractor Power Paragon. He was found guilty last May of trying to
obtain U.S. Navy submarine technology and to illegally export that
information to China.
"This lengthy prison sentence ensures that Chi Mak will never again
steal American military secrets for the benefit of another nation," U.S.
Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said in a statement. "Chi Mak betrayed the
United States and endangered our national security, as well as the brave
men and women of our armed forces."
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an investigation conducted
by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found that
co-conspirators from the PRC instructed Mak to obtain specific defense
information about current and future naval warship systems. Mak was
advised to attend seminars to collect sensitive, restricted information
discussed there and to compile that information on CD-ROM discs. Mak and
his wife, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, assembled the information on discs and
gave the discs to Mak's brother, Tai Mak, whose son, Yui "Billy" Mak,
helped encrypt the data on the discs. Officials discovered the discs in
October 2005 when Tai Mak and his wife, Fuk Heung Li, tried to board a
flight for China at Los Angeles International Airport.
The co-conspirators in the case all pleaded guilty following Chi Mak's
conviction. Tai Mak and Chiu await sentencing in April and May,
respectively. Li and Billy Mak were sentenced to time served and now
await deportation to China.
Chi Mak's arrest in 2005 heightened concerns about espionage aimed at
stealing high-tech secrets. Last November, the U.S.-China Economic and
Security Review Commission declared that Chinese espionage represented
"the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies."
Two separate arrests announced last month by the Justice Department
suggest that risk has not diminished.
Tai Shen Kuo, 58, and Yu Xin Kang, 33, both of New Orleans, and Gregg
William Bergersen, 51, of Alexandria, Va., were arrested in February on
suspicion of espionage. They're charged with sending classified U.S.
government documents and data to the government of China.
In a separate case, former Boeing employee Dongfan "Greg" Chung, 72, of
Orange, Calif., was arrested in February for allegedly sending
information about the space shuttle, the C-17 military transport plane,
and the Delta IV rocket to China.
At the time these arrests were announced, a Justice Department
spokesperson suggested that the two cases had some limited connection to
the case of Chi Mak.
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