A U.S. Navy Lieutenant based in Jacksonville was found guilty of hiding relationships and buying guns for a Chinese businessman who was convicted of exporting military boats to China.
Lt. Yang Fan, 36, was convicted in a Jacksonville federal court on Nov. 16 of conspiring to violate U.S. firearms laws, making false written statements to federally licensed firearms dealers during the purchase of two firearms, and making false written statements as part of a security clearance background investigation, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Yang faces up to 30 years in prison. Sentencing is set for March 16, 2022.
Before becoming a commissioned naval officer, Yang formed a relationship online with a Chinese national, Ge Songtao, authorities said in the statement. They met in person in 2013 when Yang was in Navy flight training in Pensacola.
In 2016, while Yang was stationed in Jacksonville, he recommended that Ge hire Yang’s wife, Yang Yang, as an employee of Ge’s Chinese company called Shanghai Breeze Technology Co. According to court documents, the Shanghai-based company purchased maritime equipment designed for law enforcement and military missions in the United States and exported them to China.
Yang Yang received more than $300,000 in payments from Shanghai Breeze, its creditors, and Ge Songtao’s executive assistant and co-defendant, Zheng Yan. The money was used to pay Yang Yang’s salary, Shanghai Breeze’s expenses in the United States, and for goods that Ge Songtao ordered the Yangs to purchase. The funds were frequently routed through the Yangs’ family business, BQ Tree LLC.
In 2017 and again in 2018, Yang Fan bought two handguns for Ge, who later reimbursed him for both purchases. Prosecutors said Yang Fan falsely represented that he was purchasing the firearms for himself on the Firearms Transactions Records.
The officer constantly hid these relationships from the Navy, the court said in the statements.
Assigned as an instructor at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School in Jacksonville in January 2019, Yang completed and signed a questionnaire as part of the renewal of his top secret security clearance. The questionnaire required disclosure of any close or continuing contact with foreign nationals. Prosecutors said Yang failed to reveal the extent of his contacts with Ge and hid a bank account in China and an expired Chinese passport.
Ge Songtao was sentenced to three-and-a-half-year in federal prison in July for attempting to buy and export maritime raiding craft and engines to China. Yang Yang and co-defendant Zheng Yan, who had pleaded guilty in connection to the scheme, were both sentenced to time served.