A Chinese national has been recently arrested for allegedly spying on the U.S. citizens in an attempt to recruit scientists and engineers.
Ji Chaoqun who was arrested in Chicago, first came to the city in 2013 to study electrical engineering on a student visa at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He enlisted himself in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2016.
The 27-year-old was allegedly tasked with providing Chinese intelligence with information about eight American citizens – some of whom were U.S. defense contractors.
According to a criminal complaint filed in a Chicago court, Chaoqun violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, by not registering himself with the U.S. Attorney General before working for the foreign government.
“By collecting this information for an arm of the Chinese government while in the United States, Ji knowingly and unlawfully acted as an agent of a foreign power,” Andrew McKay, an FBI agent, wrote in an affidavit.
The affidavit also said Chaoqunwas working at the direction of a "high-level intelligence officer" in China's Ministry of State Security, which "handles civilian intelligence collection and is responsible for counter-intelligence and foreign intelligence, as well as political security."
According to the authorities, all eight of the people Chaoqun was allegedly spying on were naturalized American citizens who were born in Taiwan or China.
Moreover, the Justice Department said all of the targets either currently worked or were recently retired from a career in the science and technology industry.
In fact, according to an FBI investigator, among the people targeted was an engineer at one of “the world’s top aircraft engine suppliers for both commercial and military aircraft.”
The complaint against the 27-year-old also alleged during his application to enroll in the U.S. Army Reserves program, Chaoqun denied having any contact with a foreign government within the last seven years. In a later interview with a U.S. Army officer, he apparently failed to reveal such an important information as well.
This week, Chaoqun made his first appearance in federal court where he asked the Chinese consulate to be notified of his arrest.
The Chinese national, who was led away in handcuffs after U.S. Magistrate judge Michael T. Mason ordered that he remain in custody, could face 10 years in prison if convicted.
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