SANTA ANA, California – An engineer who conspired with family members to export United States sensitive military technology to the People’s Republic of China was sentenced today to 293 months in federal prison.
Chi Mak, 65, of Downey, a former engineer for defense contractor Power Paragon, orchestrated the conspiracy to obtain naval technology and to illegally export the material to the PRC. He was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who also imposed a $50,000 fine.
“We will never know the full extent of the damage that Mr. Mak has done to our national security,” Judge Carney wrote in a “Statement of Reasons” filed in conjunction with today’s sentencing. “A high-end...sentence will provide a strong deterrent to the PRC not to send its agents here to steal American military secrets.”
Chi Mak was found guilty by a federal jury in May 2007 of conspiracy, two counts of attempting to violate export control laws, failing to register as an agent of a foreign government and making false statements to federal investigators. He has been in jail since his arrest.
“This lengthy prison sentence ensures that Chi Mak will never again steal American military secrets for the benefit of another nation,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “Chi Mak betrayed the United States and endangered our national security, as well as the brave men and women of our armed forces.”
Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, stated: "Today's 24-year sentence is a fitting punishment for an American citizen who was convicted of working clandestinely on behalf of China in an effort to steal critical information about the U.S. Navy's current and future warship technologies. His prosecution demonstrates our ongoing resolve to use the criminal justice system to protect America's military secrets."
An investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service revealed that co-conspirators from the PRC provided Chi Mak with “tasking lists” that requested specific defense information, including information relating to 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, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, copied the information intended for the PRC onto CD-ROM disks, which were then given to Chi Mak’s brother, Tai Mak. Yui “Billy” Mak, who is Tai Mak’s son, 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 Tai Mak and his wife, Fuk Heung Li, 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 Mak were arrested at their home. Billy Mak was charged and arrested seven months later.
"The sentence imposed by the judge in the case of Chi Mak reflects the seriousness with which the federal government views Mr. Mak's criminal actions," said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "The FBI remains committed to investigating cases involving the theft of U.S. technology and proprietary information, the compromise of which have the potential for severe consequences to our nation's security."
After Chi Mak was convicted at trial, his four co-conspirators pleaded guilty. Tai Mak, of Alhambra, and Rebecca Chiu, of Downey, are scheduled to be sentenced in April and May, respectively. Chi Mak’s sister-in-law, Fuk Li, and nephew, Billy Mak, were previously sentenced to time served and now fact deportation back the PRC.
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.