Chinese Tourist Sentenced to Three Years for Attempt to Export Military Radio to China

June 17, 2020 Updated: June 17, 2020

The U.S. District Court in San Diego recently sentenced a Chinese tourist to three years in prison, for attempting to illegally export a military-grade radio to China.

Li Qingshan, 34, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to attempt to export defense articles without a license, for buying a Harris Falcon III AN/PRC 152A handheld radio in San Diego, with the intention of shipping the radio from Tijuana, a border city in Mexico, to China.

Li arrived in San Diego with a tourist visa on June 28 last year, with a return flight ticket to China scheduled for July 7, 2019, according to a June 12 press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. A day after his arrival, he traveled to a storage unit owned by a man identified only as “AB” in court documents.

Li met with AB there, and bought the radio “along with other military radios, antennas, additional military equipment, and a map of North Island Naval Air Station,” according to prosecutors. Li agreed to pay AB a total of about $7,200 and paid $600 in cash as a down payment for the purchase, promising to pay the remaining amount later.

North Island Naval Air Station is a military base located on the north end of the Coronado peninsula on San Diego Bay. It is home to several U.S. aircraft carriers, including USS Nimitz, which was deployed on June 8 with its strike group in support of global maritime security operations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Foster pointed out that the radio is designated a defense article on the United States Munitions List, meaning that a license from the U.S. State Department is needed to export it.

“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,” Foster said in the press release.

Before Li could travel to Mexico, he was stopped by U.S. law enforcement agents, with the radio and other equipment in his bag. He admitted to the agents that he was aware the radio was export-controlled and he was violating U.S. law.

“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 Garrett Waugh, an agent in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in the press release.

U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo, who sentenced Li to 3 years in prison, said he would be deported after serving his sentence and would lose his visa.

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