New Zealand Man Convicted of Conspiracy to Export Sensitive Parts to China
Traveled to Seattle to Pick up Parts from Undercover Agent; Planned to Smuggle Parts into China
A resident of New Zealand who traveled to Seattle in April 2016 to take possession of export-restricted parts designed for missile and space applications was convicted late yesterday in U.S. District Court in Seattle of two federal felonies related to the scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. The jury deliberated about three hours before finding WILLIAM ALI, 38, guilty of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and attempting to violate the Act. U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly scheduled ALI’s sentencing hearing for March 16, 2017. ALI remains in federal custody pending sentencing.
According to records in the case and testimony presented at the two-day trial, ALI emailed several companies and distributors in April 2015 about purchasing certain accelerometers that are designed for use in spacecraft and missile navigation. These accelerometers cannot be exported from the United States without a license from the U.S. State Department, which Ali did not have. The Department of Homeland Security learned of Ali’s inquiries and began an investigation.
Over the next year, ALI communicated by phone and email with a Homeland Security undercover agent and with a person in China known in his emails as “Michael.” Michael was the person seeking the accelerometers, as well as certain gyroscopes that are designed for military use. ALI was working to find a way to purchase the devices and transport them secretly to Michael in China. In multiple emails, ALI made clear that he was aware that export of the accelerometers and gyroscopes was illegal. ALI sent the undercover agent nearly $25,000 for the devices – money he got from Michael. ALI traveled to Seattle and met with the undercover agent on April 16, 2016, at a downtown hotel. Shortly after ALI took possession of the devices he was arrested. ALI had with him an airline ticket to Hong Kong and a visa to travel to China.
The conspiracy count is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Attempt to violate the Export Control Act is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. These are the maximum sentences allowed by law. Judge Zilly will determine the appropriate sentence based on a number of factors including the background and circumstances of the defendant.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Woods and Rebecca Cohen.