Chinese Residents Charged With Attempting To Bring Export-Controlled Thermal Imaging Cameras To PRC

LAWFUEL – Two men – one a Chinese national and one a naturalized United States citizen – who were arrested early Saturday morning at Los Angeles International Airport were charged today with attempting to bring 10 thermal-imaging cameras to the People’s Republic of China without obtaining the necessary licenses.

Tah Wei Chao, 52, and Zhi Yong Guo, 49, both of whom live in Beijing, were named today in a criminal complaint filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles. The complaint accuses the men of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and Export Administration Regulations by knowingly exporting and attempting to export restricted items without a license.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Chao purchased three thermal imaging cameras last fall, and investigators believe that he arranged to have these export-controlled devices shipped to the PRC. The thermal imaging cameras, which have potential military use, can be used to observe things not otherwise visible to the naked eye, and they are export-controlled for national security, nuclear proliferation and regional stability reasons.

Last month, Chao ordered 10 more cameras from FLIR Systems, Inc for $53,000. Representatives from FLIR Systems repeatedly warned Chao that the cameras could not be moved outside of the United States without an export license issued by the Department of Commerce.

Early Saturday morning, as both men were preparing to board a flight to China, authorities searched their luggage and found the 10 recently purchased cameras.

Chao and Guo are expected to make their initial court appearances this afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt

The charge in the complaint carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

This case is the product of an investigation by the newly created Export and Anti-proliferation Global Law Enforcement (EAGLE) Task Force. The counter-proliferation task force was recently created by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California in conjunction with federal law enforcement agencies to jointly investigate and combat the illegal exports of arms and sensitive technologies. The members of the EAGLE Task Force that participated in this investigation are: the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export and Enforcement; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Customs and Border Protection; the Diplomatic Security Service and the Transportation Security Administration.

CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Rodin Rooyani

National Security Section

(213) 894-6595

Release No. 08-036

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