Former U.S. Military Pilot Sentenced for Acting as Paid Agent of China and Lying on National Security Background Forms
Assistant U. S. Attorneys Fred Sheppard (619) 546-8237 and John Parmley (619) 546-7957
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – November 7, 2022
SAN DIEGO – Former U.S. Army helicopter pilot-turned-civilian-contractor Shapour Moinian was sentenced in federal court today to 20 months for acting as an agent of China and accepting thousands of dollars from representatives of the Chinese government to provide aviation-related information from his defense-contractor employers.
During today’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller told the defendant: “This was industrial espionage, bordering on military espionage…These were extremely serious offenses against the United States.”
U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said: “Today this defendant is being held to account for selling American technology and intellectual property to the Chinese. This crime was committed by a former member of the U.S. military who chose cash over his company and country. The United States will aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone who works at the direction of foreign governments to steal from Americans.”
“Mr. Moinian deserves to be held fully accountable for betraying his oath to the United States, selling sensitive information to the Chinese government, and lying repeatedly to cover up his crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Brice Miller of the NCIS Office of Special Projects. “This sentencing should make it clear: NCIS and our partners are fully committed to protecting the U.S. military and rooting out criminality that threatens the superiority of the U.S. warfighter.”
Moinian served in the Army in the United States, Germany, and South Korea from approximately 1977 through 2000. After his service, Moinian worked for various cleared defense contractors (CDC) in the United States – including in San Diego - as well as the Department of Defense. “Cleared” is a term that indicates a contractor is permitted to work on projects that involve classified information.
According to his plea agreement, while Moinian was working for a CDC on various aviation projects used by the military and U.S. intelligence agencies, he was contacted by an individual in China who claimed to be working for a technical recruiting company. This person offered Moinian the opportunity to consult for the aviation industry in China.
In March of 2017, Moinian travelled to Hong Kong where he met with this purported recruiter and agreed to provide information and materials related to multiple types of aircraft designed and/or manufactured in the United States in exchange for money. Moinian accepted approximately $7,000-$10,000 in United States currency during that meeting. According to his plea agreement, at this meeting and at all subsequent meetings, Moinian knew that these individuals were employed or directed by the government of the People’s Republic of China.
Upon returning to the United States, Moinian began gathering aviation-related materials, which included transferring material from a CDC to a thumb drive. In September 2017, Moinian traveled overseas. During a stopover at the Shanghai airport, he met with Chinese government officials and provided aviation-related materials on a thumb drive, including proprietary information from a CDC. Thereafter, Moinian arranged to be paid for this information through the South Korean bank account of his stepdaughter. Moinian told his stepdaughter that these funds were payment for his consulting work overseas and instructed her to transfer the funds to him in multiple transactions.
Moinian also received a cell phone and other equipment from these individuals to communicate with them and aid in the electronic transfer of materials and information.
At the end of March 2018, Moinian traveled to Bali and met with these same individuals again. Later that year, he began working at another CDC. During this timeframe, the same individuals in China transferred thousands of dollars into the South Korean bank account of Moinian’s stepdaughter, who subsequently wired the funds to Moinian in multiple transactions.
In August 2019, Moinian traveled again to Hong Kong and met with these same individuals where he was again paid approximately $22,000 in cash for his services. Moinian and his wife smuggled this cash back into the United States.
Moinian also admitted that he lied on his government background questionnaires in July 2017 and March 2020, when he falsely stated that did not have any close or continuing contacts with foreign nationals and that no foreign national had offered him a job.
Grossman thanked the prosecution team as well as the FBI, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division for their excellent work on this case.
DEFENDANTS Case Number 21CR02927-JM
Shapour Moinian Age: 67 San Diego
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Title 18, United States Code, Section 951 (Acting as an Agent of a Foreign Government)
Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison and $250,000 per count fine
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 (Materially False, Fictitious, or Fraudulent Statement or Representation)
Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 per count fine
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Naval Criminal Investigative Service