NEW YORK—A Chinese national from Fuijian Province will spend the next 57 months in federal prison before being sent back to China.
Zhang Ming Suan, 41, traveled to New York to buy high-grade carbon fiber—the type used to make nuclear weapons and develop aerospace technology—from an undercover investigator with the intention of exporting it back to China.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis told Zhang, “This was a most serious crime and if you had been successful it would have put many, many people at risk of harm or death.”
When arrested, Zhang had a tablet imprinted with the Norinco Company label—a company, which Garaufis said specializes in the production of military weapons.
“What you were going to do for money could have had dire consequences for millions of people,” Garaufis said.
Through a translator, Zhang said that two Taiwanese co-conspirators, who had recruited him for the exporting operation, gave him the tablet.
“They sent it to me in the mail. It was already damaged when I received it,” Zhang said.
Zhang was given ample opportunity to talk to the judge prior to his sentencing at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Tuesday, Dec. 10. He mainly talked about his deteriorating physical condition, lack of medical care in prison, and increasing hearing loss.
“I’m not very healthy, and I would like to request that the prosecutor and the judge demonstrate mercy to me,” he said.
Zhang has been in custody since his arrest, and said he could not stomach the prison food.
“I’m not used to the food and with every meal that I eat I vomit and sometimes I even bleed,” he said.
Zhang’s lawyer Chen Mingli maintained his client had a business motive for trying to export the restricted high-grade carbon fiber to China. Zhang had huge debts from fines imposed through a civil court in China, because his hockey stick business did not do well, and his creditors took him to court.
“Zhang owed 2 million in Chinese currency, so that is the equivalent of roughly $317,000,” Chen said.
Zhang traveled to Saipan with a tourist group before entering the United States without a visa.
Garaufis said if Zhang was “willing to venture to Saipan to make a deal it must have been a pretty sweet deal for him, had it been consummated.”
Zhang came to the attention of federal authorities in the first half of 2012, after two Taiwanese accomplices, initially believed to be working for Zhang, tried to locate large quantities of high-grade carbon fiber on the Internet.
The male and female tried to obtain the high-grade carbon fiber through a website run by federal investigators.
During recorded phone conversations, Zhang told an undercover law enforcement agent that he needed the carbon fiber urgently, in connection with a scheduled test flight of a Chinese fighter plane.
Zhang then arranged to meet the undercover agent to obtain a carbon fiber sample, which he planned to ship to China to verify its authenticity. Zhang was arrested when he arrived for the meeting.
The scheme was aimed at obtaining thousands of pounds of the high-grade fiber, the criminal complaint alleged.
Zhang was facing a fine of up to $1 million dollars and a prison term of up to 20 years, but Garaufis wiped the fine saying that owing to all his debts in China Zhang did not have the ability to pay. Zhang had already agreed to a forfeiture of $1,000.