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Press Release

Chinese Citizen Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Scheme to Smuggle Restricted Parts to China

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Accelerometers Used In Spacecraft

A citizen of China was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years in prison for violating the Arms Control Export Act, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  SEE KEE CHIN, a/k/a, Alfred Chin, 56, of Hong Kong was arrested in Seattle on February 10, 2014, after he entered the United States as part of a scheme to obtain restricted parts and illegally smuggle them to China.  CHIN attempted to obtain and export accelerometers that are designated on the United States Munitions List, International Traffic in Arms Regulations.  The accelerometers are designed for low and zero gravity inertial navigation systems that can be used in satellites and launch vehicle applications.  At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour noted that it is important to send a message to others overseas that violations of the Arms Control Act will be punished.

“We will hold to account those who circumvent requirements designed to protect our national security,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “This defendant attempted to smuggle restricted equipment out of the United States knowing it was illegal to do so, and he admits he was working for others in China.  Ensuring our technology does not fall into the wrong hands remains a top priority.”

According to the criminal complaint, a U.S. company that sells accelerometers reported suspicious contact with a Canadian who wanted to purchase restricted equipment.  Between September 2013 and February 2014, the investigation revealed that the Canadian was inquiring on behalf of CHIN, who indicated he would personally pick up the order.  CHIN was arrested in Seattle after he made payment of over $85,000, and attempted to pick up the items.  CHIN had indicated he planned to smuggle the parts out of the country in his suitcase.  He previously discussed hiding the items in children’s toys.

“Accelerometers are fairly common, in fact most people have one in their pocket installed in their cellphone,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle.  “What Chin was after wasn’t one of those.  The accelerometers he attempted to purchase are specialized pieces of equipment designed to be used in satellites.  This caught the attention of HSI special agents, whose job it is to keep restricted arms parts out of the hands of our nation’s enemies.  HSI is committed to thwarting clandestine attempts by foreign nationals to illegally export sensitive technology from the U.S.”

The Department of State promulgates the United States Munitions List, which consists of categories of defense articles and services that cannot be exported without a license issued by the Department of State.  The U.S. Munitions List includes the accelerometers ordered in this case. As a result, the export required an export license.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Woods.

Updated March 20, 2015