Chinese Woman Sentenced for Smuggling Space Tech to China

Santa Ana–A Chinese national who pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme that illegally exported sensitive space communications technology to China was sentenced on October 1 to serve 46 months in federal prison.

Si Chen, 33, a Pomona resident who has been in custody since her arrest in May 2017, was sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

Chen, who used various aliases, included “Cathy Chen,” pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which controls and restricts the export of certain goods and technology from the United States to foreign nations. Chen also pleaded guilty to money laundering and using a forged passport with her photo but a different name that appeared to have been issued by the People’s Republic of China.

According to court documents, from March 2013 through the end of 2015, Chen purchased and smuggled sensitive items to China without obtaining licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce that are required under IEEPA. Those items included components commonly used in military communications “jammers.” Additionally, Chen smuggled communications devices worth more than $100,000 that are commonly used in space communications applications. Chen falsely under-valued the items on the shipping paperwork to avoid arousing suspicion. Chen received payments for the illegally exported products through an account held at a bank in China by a family member.

Under IEEPA, it is crime to willfully export or attempt to export items that appear on the Commerce Control List without a license from the U.S. Department of Commerce. These are items authorities have determined could be detrimental to regional stability and national security.

In addition to participating in the scheme to violate IEEPA, Chen used several aliases and a forged Chinese passport to conceal her smuggling activities. Chen used a Chinese passport bearing her photo and a false name – “Chunping Ji” – to rent an office in Pomona where she took delivery of the export-controlled items. After receiving the goods, Chen shipped the devices to Hong Kong, and from there the items were transshipped to China. The parcels shipped to Hong Kong bore her false name, along with false product descriptions and monetary values, all done in an effort to avoid attracting law enforcement scrutiny.