A Chinese national who had false papers identifying him as a natural-born U.S. citizen was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release for trafficking the United State’s high-tech military weaponry.
Kan Chen, 26, of Ningbo, China, in Zhejiang Province, was convicted for conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations; attempting to violate the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations; and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, according to Department of Justice representatives.
One year ago, Chen was arrested by HSI agents on the Northern Mariana Island of Saipan following an eight-month long investigation into his illegal conduct and has remained in custody. He pleaded guilty to the offenses listed above last March 2..
“The United States will simply never know the true harm of Chen’s conduct because the end users of the rifle scopes and other technology are unknown,” said U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly. “No matter their nationality, those individuals who seek to profit by illegally exporting sensitive U.S. military technology will be prosecuted..”
“These sophisticated technologies are highly sought after by our adversaries,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nevano. “They were developed to give the United States and its allies a distinct military advantage, which is why HSI will continue to aggressively target the individuals who might illegally procure and sell these items.”
According to court documents, from July 2013 through his arrest in June 2015, Chen caused or attempted to cause the illegal export of over 180 export-controlled items, valued at over $275,000, to China. Over 40 of those items – purchased for more than $190,000 – were sophisticated night vision and thermal imaging scopes, which can be mounted on automatic and semi-automatic rifles and used for military purposes at night.
Given the sensitivity surrounding these military-grade items, Chen devised a complicated scheme to smuggle these items through Delaware and outside the U.S. He purchased the devices via the internet and telephone and had them mailed to several reshipping services in New Castle, Delaware, which provide an American shipping address for customers located in China, accept packages for their customers and then re-ship them to China.
In order to further conceal his illegal activity, Chen arranged for the re-shippers to send the devices to several intermediary individuals, who in turn forwarded the devices to Chen in China. Chen then sent the devices to his customers.
During the sentencing hearing, the government noted the lethality of these items when combined with weapons designed for use on a battlefield. For example, one of the 100 mm scopes, which Chen purchased for $8,428.39, is described by the manufacturer as “an ideal product for force protection, border patrol officers, police SWAT and special operations forces providing them the tools they need to be successful in all field operations both day and night. Uncooled thermal imaging cuts through dust, smoke, fog, haze, and other battlefield obscurants.”
As the government further noted, Chen’s conduct was particularly harmful because he sold this military technology indiscriminately. Thus, it could have ended up in any number of nefarious hands – including agents of foreign governments, or individuals or organizations involved in the drug trade or human traffickers.
Once these rifle scopes were exported to China and distributed by Chen to his customers, the military technology contained inside these items could have been reversed engineered or used anywhere in the world for a variety of purposes by oppressive regimes, terrorists, or others to threaten the United States or its allies’ military advantage, said a press release from the Department of Justice.