A federal jury in Chicago convicted a Chinese national and former army reservist acting within the United States as an illegal agent of the Chinese regime.
Ji Chaoqun, 31, was found guilty on three counts, including acting as an unregistered foreign agent of China and making a material false statement to the U.S. Army, according to a statement released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sept. 26.
Recruited by China’s Spy Agency
Ji came to the United States on a student F1 visa in 2013. He studied electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
In 2016, Ji enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves as an E4 specialist under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, “which authorized the U.S. armed forces to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered vital to the national interest,” according to the DOJ statement.
According to the complaint in 2018, “Ji specifically denied having had contact with a foreign government within the past seven years.” Furthermore, Ji failed to disclose his relationship and contacts with a foreign intelligence officer in a subsequent interview with a U.S. Army officer.
The charges against Ji alleged that he was targeted by agents with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) in China shortly before coming to Chicago in 2013.
Prosecutors alleged that Ji was “wined and dined” by MSS agents who gave him a top-secret contract, in which “he swore an oath of allegiance to the agency’s cause,” agreeing to devote his life to state security, Chicago Tribune reported.
Ji worked under the direction of Xu Yanjun, a deputy division director in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security (JSSD), a provincial department of MSS.
Ji was tasked with providing the intelligence officer with biographical information on eight individuals for possible recruitment by the JSSD. The individuals included Chinese nationals working as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom were U.S. defense contractors.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, beginning in December 2013, Xu used multiple aliases to target specific companies in the United States and abroad that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. He attempted to steal technology related to GE Aviation’s exclusive composite aircraft engine fan—which no other company in the world has been able to duplicate—to benefit the Chinese state.
Sentencing to Be Determined
A sentencing date has not been scheduled yet.
Ji faces up to 10 years in prison for acting within the United States as an illegal agent of China and up to five years for conspiracy and false statement offenses.
The FBI investigated the case, with valuable assistance provided by the U.S. Army 902nd Military Intelligence Group, according to the DOJ press release.
Li Yan contributed to this report.