A former U.S. Navy sailor has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring with her husband to illegally ship export-controlled sensitive military equipment to China for profit, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Dec. 21.
Ye Sang “Ivy” Wang, 37, a naturalized U.S. citizen from China, was a logistics specialist for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command from 2015 to 2019, where her duties included making military equipment purchases, according to a DOJ statement.
The Naval Special Warfare Command—the naval component of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)—includes the Navy’s SEALS and Special Boat Teams.
Her husband, Shaohua “Eric” Wang, 38, also a naturalized U.S. citizen, enlisted his wife to “use her Navy position” to purchase military equipment for resale, according to the statement. He traveled to China frequently, had buyers in the country, and maintained a warehouse in China to house the military equipment.
In March 2018, Ivy used her military email and her mailing address at the Navy command to order “a device for identifying United States military personnel in the field,” the DOJ stated. When the device arrived at the Navy command, she was deployed in Iraq. She told her command that the item was for her husband for an upcoming camping trip.
Upon her return from Iraq in October 2018, she admitted to law enforcement agents that she knew that her husband was shipping military equipment to China illegally.
Her husband continued to press her to make more purchases, even handing her an Excel spreadsheet of items that he wanted her to buy. According to prosecutors, Ivy got so “annoyed” at her husband that she “gave him her password to her military email and told him to buy the export-controlled military equipment posing as her” when she was deployed overseas.
“Ms. Wang betrayed her oath to the U.S. Navy and ultimately threatened the operational readiness and safety of our nation’s military by attempting to acquire and illegally export sensitive military equipment to China,” said Joshua Flowers, special agent in charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Southwest Field Office, according to the statement.
In addition to her 30-month sentence, Ivy was also fined $20,000. Her husband was sentenced to 46 months for his role in the scheme on Feb. 3, 2020, according to the DOJ. The couple is from San Diego.
According to a court document (pdf), Ivy became the target of an investigation when a special security officer in Navy command was alerted that she had repeatedly tried to obtain a top security clearance. Her job already granted her a classified security clearance. The officer was also alarmed to learn that she was compiling a list of the Navy command’s deployment personnel records, including names and addresses, according to the court document.
Court documents also show that one of the companies that she reached out to was the U.S.-based Airborne Systems, a maker of military parachutes. It’s unclear if she purchased anything from the company on behalf of her husband.
The Wangs aren’t the first Chinese nationals to have been accused of illegally exporting U.S. equipment and technology to China.
In November 2020, a Chinese American electrical engineer who worked for Raytheon Missiles and Defense was sentenced to 38 months in prison for violating U.S. export control law. The engineer had traveled to China while bringing with him a company-issued computer containing information related to a missile guidance system.
Three months later, a Chinese researcher who worked at the Ohio-based Research Institute at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital for 10 years was sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring to steal U.S. trade secrets and sell them for profit in China.
In July, a Chinese national was sentenced to 3 1/2 years for attempting to illegally export maritime raiding craft and engines to China. According to the DOJ, the U.S. military uses the engines to launch vessels from submerged submarines or from aircraft into the ocean. China is incapable of manufacturing the same engines.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in September 2020 that the bureau was opening one new Chinese counterintelligence investigation about every 10 hours. Wray also said the bureau had more than 2,000 counterintelligence investigations related to China at that time.