Lawfuel – The Law Newswire – SANTA ANA, California — The fifth member of a Southern California family who conspired to export United States defense articles to the People’s Republic of China has pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the PRC.
Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, 63, of Downey, pleaded guilty late Tuesday night to failing to register as a foreign agent. On the first day of a trial in United States District Court, Chiu admitted that she operated within the United States under the control of the government of the PRC.
Chiu is the fifth and final defendant to be convicted for participating in a scheme to obtain sensitive military technology and to illegally export the material to the PRC.
The other defendants previous convicted in this case are:
Chi Mak, 66, of Downey, who is Chiu’s husband and a former engineer for defense contractor Power Paragon, was at the center of the conspiracy and was convicted at trial; Chi Mak’s brother, Tai Mak, 57, of Alhambra, who pleaded guilty on Monday; Tai Mak’s wife, Fuk Heung Li, 49, also of Alhambra, who pleaded guilty on Monday; and Tai Mak’s son, Yui “Billy” Mak, 27 of Alhambra, who pleaded guilty last Friday.
An investigation by federal authorities revealed that co-conspirators from the PRC provided Chi Mak with “tasking lists” that requested specific defense information, including sensitive areas of U.S. Naval research concerning nuclear-powered submarines. The lists contained instructions for Chi Mak to participate in seminars and then compile the information he obtained at the seminars onto computer disks. Chi Mak collected technical information about the Navy’s current and future warship technologies, some of which constituted defense articles. This included information that was sensitive and subject to restriction regarding its distribution, storage and handling. Chi Mak and his wife copied the information intended for the PRC onto CD-ROM disks, which were then given to Tai Mak. Billy Mak then encrypted the defense data onto a CD-ROM disk in preparation for surreptitious delivery to the PRC. This CD-ROM was found hidden in luggage on October 28, 2005 when Fuk Li and Tai Mak attempted to board a flight to the PRC at Los Angeles International Airport. Tai Mak and Fuk Li were arrested at the airport, while Chi Mak and Chiu were arrested at their home. Billy Mak was charged and arrested last year.
“This counterintelligence investigation, worked in partnership with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, resulted not only with a trial conviction of Mr. Chi Mak on all charges, but also guilty pleas from the remaining four defendants who’ve admitted to charges that include failing to register as an agent of a foreign government, as well as violating export control laws,” said J. Stephen Tidwell, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “This case exemplifies the FBI’s vision and tenacity in its commitment to protecting America’s crown jewels, many of which can be found in Southern California, and should send a warning to those who would endeavor to compromise national security.”
Chi Mak was found guilty by a federal jury last month of conspiracy, two counts of attempting to violate export control laws, failing to register as a foreign agent and making false statements to federal investigators. Chi Mak is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney on September 10, at which time he faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years in federal prison. Chi Mak has been in jail since his arrest.
The plea agreement between Chiu and the government calls for a sentence of three years in federal prison. Chiu, who is free on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Carney on October 29.
Tai Mak pleaded guilty to conspiring to export defense articles, a crime that carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison. Tai Mak, who has been in jail since he was arrested, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Carney on October 1.
Fuk Mak pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the attempted illegal export scheme. Fuk Mak, who is free on bond, is expected to receive a probationary sentence on October 1.
Billy Mak, who is also free on bond, also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the scheme and is expected to receive a sentence of probation on September 24.
This investigation was conducted jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which received substantial assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Gregory W. Staples
Assistant United States Attorney Craig H. Missakian
Release No. 07-074