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Woman Charged in Plot to Illegally Export Military Accelerometers to China

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury sitting in San Diego today handed up an indictment charging Qing Li, 39, with conspiracy to procure the illegal export of military-grade accelerometers from the United States to the Republic of China (“China”) based on an undercover operation by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

The announcement was made today by Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Karen P. Hewitt, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, Julie L. Myers, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE, and Rick W. Gwin, Special Agent in Charge for the DCIS, Western Region.

According to court papers, Li, of Stamford, Connecticut, conspired with an individual in China to locate and procure Endevco 7270A-200K accelerometers for what her co-conspirator described as a “special” scientific agency in China. The Endevco 7270A-200K accelerometer measures massive shocks up to and beyond 200,000 g, and has many military applications, including use in “smart” bombs and missile development.

The accelerometer is designated as a defense article on the United States Munitions List and cannot be exported from the United States without the written permission of the United States Department of State. The United States maintains an arms embargo against China, and State Department policy is to deny permission for the export of defense articles, such as the Endevco 7270A-200K accelerometer, to China.

“The controlled military sensors that were the focus of this technology procurement plot are extremely sensitive devices used in the development of missiles and artillery and the calibration of large-scale nuclear and chemical explosions. I applaud the agents who infiltrated this foreign procurement network and prevented these items from being illegally exported to China,” said Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

“Accelerometers are a designated defense article frequently used in missiles, “smart bombs” and other major weapons systems and in the wrong hands, could prove catastrophic,” said Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “These devices are simply not for export to China or anywhere else without explicit permission from the U.S. Government. Stopping the illicit export of weapons technology is paramount to the national security of our country and the public safety of all.”

According to court papers, including a complaint filed against Li last week in San Diego, from April 2007 to October 2007, Li and her co-conspirator used e-mail messages and telephone calls to negotiate the illegal export transaction with an undercover ICE agent in San Diego. Li and her co-conspirator urged the undercover agent to deliver the accelerometers directly to China, advising the undercover agent that if the accelerometers tested properly, large orders would follow.

U.S. Attorney Hewitt stated, “This investigation and prosecution demonstrate the firm commitment we in federal law enforcement have to prevent the illegal exportation of items on the United States Munitions List. This plot was foiled and the defendant was apprehended because of the tireless effort and hard work of agents from ICE and DCIS.”

“This investigation signifies the aggressive pursuit by the DCIS, in cooperation with our other federal law enforcement partners, to identify and pursue prosecution of those that illegally export or steal our sensitive military technology,” said Rick W. Gwin, Special Agent in Charge for the DCIS, Western Field Office.

Agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service arrested Li at JFK International Airport in New York on October 14, 2007, shortly before Li was to board a flight to China. Li is currently in federal custody in New York.

On October 22, 2007, she is scheduled to appear before United States Magistrate Judge Steven Gold in the Eastern District of New York to determine whether she will be ordered removed to San Diego, California, to answer the charge in the indictment. She faces a potential five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

An indictment or complaint itself is not evidence that the defendant committed the crimes charged. The defendant is presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.