UCLA Professor Faces 219 Years in Prison for Selling Missile Technology to China

July 15, 2019 Updated: July 16, 2019

A UCLA adjunct professor in the Engineering Department faces up to 219 years in federal prison for stealing missile technology and selling it to a Chinese company.

Yi-Chi Shih was arrested in January and convicted in a federal court on June 26 on all 18 counts in a federal grand jury indictment, according to a July 2 release by the U.S. Justice Department. He was found to have been involved in an illegal scheme to obtain monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) from an unnamed American company and smuggle them to the Chinese company Chengdu GaStone Technology.

A federal court also found him guilty of mail and wire fraud, fabricated tax returns, falsifying statements to a government agency, conspiring to gain unauthorized access to a protected computer, and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. This law prohibits unauthorized exports in the case of an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”

Shih, whose public LinkedIn profile shows he worked as an adjunct professor at UCLA since 1994, also worked as a senior technology manager at Honeywell International from 2007-2011 and was president of MMCOMM Inc., a technology company, from 1997-2007.

The Epoch Times attempted to reach out to UCLA for comment, but didn’t receive a response.

Shih is the second UC staffer this past month who was found to have links to the theft of intellectual property and technology for China. Dr. Kang Zhang, who served as the chief of eye genetics at the UC San Diego’s Shirley Eye Institute, resigned on July 4 after an inquiry into his involvement in the Thousand Talents Program, a Chinese state-sponsored programed aimed at luring foreign experts to work in China, as well as undisclosed connections to a number of Chinese businesses and biomedical companies.

As more Chinese informants are arrested or caught in California, many people are questioning the extent of the problem in the Golden State.

According to a 2018 Politico report on the issue, a full 20 percent of FBI counterintelligence related intellectual property cases trace their origins to the Bay Area, where employees of tech companies were often found to have sold information to the Chinese government. However, some crimes may have gone unreported due to local ignorance about the threat or the fear of being accused of discrimination for singling out Chinese employees.

In another disclosure, Guo Wengui, a billionaire businessman who broke with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) two years ago, revealed that there were anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 Chinese agents in the United States before the year 2012. After Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, an additional 5,000 spies were dispatched to the US.

“Some of them were sent as students, some as businessmen, and some as immigrants, but all together, 5,000,” Guo said, according to the Free Beacon.

Guo also noted that there were between 15,000 to 18,000 other spies that are recruited from within the United States. Many of these spies are not limited to Asians or people of Chinese descent but include other ethnicities as well.

Of these numbers, the amount in California are difficult to verify, but according to a 2015 interview with retired U.S. Army officer-turned radio show host, Brian Suits, the number ranges from 300 to 800 agents.

In 2018, it was revealed that a Chinese spy was even embedded in U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) office as her driver for many years.

Confucius Institutes, Chinese language and cultural centers located on U.S. campuses and subsidized by millions of dollars from the Chinese government, have also come under increased scrutiny. Initially, universities saw the centers as a way to expand their language offerings and attract international students from China to pay full tuition.

Over time, however, U.S. officials warned the centers were pressuring universities to influence attitudes and censor discussions on sensitive Chinese subjects, such as Tibet, Taiwan, and human rights. Officials also suggested that universities may be subject to espionage tactics.

In May, San Francisco State University shut down its Confucius Institute after a new law specified that certain federal funds could not be used to support a Chinese language program at universities with Confucius Institutes.

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned universities in a statement in February 2018 not to be naïve about Chinese spies operating on their campuses and that the Confucius Institutes were under FBI scrutiny. Vice President Mike Pence further warned last fall that China was using organizations on campuses to monitor students for anti-China speech or activities.

The arrest of Shih is considered only the latest example of an attempt by informants and agents working at universities to infiltrate sensitive projects and gain access to information or technology that would benefit the CCP.

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