NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 12, 2020
San Diego – Qingshan Li, a national of the People’s Republic of China, was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to three years in federal custody for attempting to send to China an export-controlled radio, which is designated as a defense article due to its certification by the National Security Agency for Top Secret wire and data communications.
At sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Foster noted that for weeks preceding his arrest, Li was communicating with a man identified by the Government as “AB.” Li wanted to buy specific U.S. military equipment from AB, including the Harris Falcon III AN/PRC 152A radio (the Radio). Li had previously purchased U.S. military equipment from AB. Li flew into San Diego from China on a tourist visa on June 28, 2019, with a return ticket for July 7, 2019. The next day, Li drove his rental car to AB’s storage unit in San Diego and purchased the Radio, along with other military radios, antennas, additional military equipment and a map of North Island Naval Air Station. Li informed AB that Li planned to take the Radio to Tijuana, Mexico, and ship it to China from Tijuana in light of the lack of export-control rules in Mexico. Li agreed to pay AB 50,000 renminbi (approximately $7,200) for the Radio. Li gave AB a $600 cash down payment toward the purchase price of the Radio at the storage locker, with the promise of paying AB the remaining $6,600 at a later date.
AUSA Foster pointed out that this Radio was not a cheap make-believe radio meant for costume play. It was designated a defense article on the United States Munitions List and subject to ITAR (International Trafficking in Arms Regulations, Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 120 et seq.). A license from the Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, is required to export the Radio from the United States. AUSA Foster emphasized that the Radio is designated export-controlled for a reason: it is certified by the National Security Agency for Top Secret wire and data communications. Any breach in these communications could mean deadly results for U.S. Navy SEALS and other U.S. Military personnel using this equipment in the field.
The record demonstrates that soon after law enforcement agents stopped Li with the Radio and other military equipment in his bag, they interviewed him. At that time, Li stated that he knew the Radio was export controlled, and he knew that it was illegal for the Radio to be transported to China. Li stated that he purchased the Radio with the intent to ship it to China, knowing he was violating United States law.
At the sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo noted that there was nothing mistaken about this crime. Li intended to buy this Radio and get it to China. In doing so, he was endangering the lives of U.S. Military servicemembers. Judge Bencivengo noted that Li would be deported after he served his sentence and lose his visa, which would reduce the threat to the United States going forward. Accordingly, Judge Bencivengo sentenced Li to 36 months.
“The exportation of sensitive U.S. defense technology risks the lives of American military personnel and imperils our nation’s overall security,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Mr. Li’s sentence demonstrates this office’s ongoing commitment to holding fully accountable those who cavalierly violate our export control laws.” U.S. Attorney Brewer specifically commended “AUSA Alexandra Foster and the stellar team of federal agents who diligently pursued justice in this case.”
“Our military technology and communication equipment is at the core of maintaining the safety of our US military personnel and the security of our nation,” said Omer Meisel, FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Field Office. “The FBI is committed to working with our military and national security partners, including NCIS, to stop individuals, like the defendant in this case, from engaging in the theft of information and sensitive technology for a foreign government or at the direction of an agent of a foreign government. Our country’s national security is the highest priority, and the FBI will do everything in our power to protect it.”
“Mr. Li’s criminal attempt to obtain sensitive military communications technology and provide it to China posed a serious threat to the U.S. military’s warfighting capability,” said NCIS Southwest Field Office Special Agent in Charge Garrett Waugh. “The sentencing should serve as a warning that NCIS and our partner law enforcement agencies will always fully investigate and bring to justice nefarious actors like Mr. Li who seek to diminish the U.S. military’s strategic edge. We credit this investigative success to the outstanding collaboration among NCIS and our partner law enforcement agencies with support from the Naval Special Warfare Command.”
This matter was investigated and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Foster, in coordination with the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, the FBI and NCIS.
DEFENDANT Case Number: 19CR2564-CAB
Qingshan LI Age: 34
SUMMARY OF CHARGE
Unauthorized Solicitation of Access Devices, 18 USC Sec. 371, Conspiracy to Attempt to Export Defense Articles Without a License.
Maximum Penalty: Five years in prison, three years’ supervised release, $250,000 fine, restitution.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Naval Criminal Investigative Service
DOJ National Security Division