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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Thursday, July 27, 2017

New Zealand Man Sentenced for 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 sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years in prison for conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. WILLIAM ALI, 38, has been in federal custody since his arrest on April 11, 2016. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly said, “You knew that if you did it you could go to jail and you proceeded to do it. . . you laughed and you were undeterred in your decision to come here.”

          “Protecting national security is job one for United States Attorneys,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “This defendant tried to evade our export control laws to transfer highly sensitive products to China. We will continue to work closely with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and our other law enforcement partners to ensure our national assets do not end up in the wrong hands.”


           According to records in the case and testimony presented at 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. Homeland Security Investigations learned of Ali’s inquiries and began an investigation.

          Over the next year, ALI communicated by phone and email with a Homeland Security Investigations 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 11, 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.

          “U.S. export controls are in place to keep sensitive technology from falling into the hands of our nation's enemies,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle. “One of HSI’s highest priorities is to prevent illicit procurement networks, terrorist groups, and hostile nations from illegally obtaining military items and controlled dual-use technology.”

          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.

Counterintelligence and Export Control
National Security
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Public Affairs Officer Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or
Updated July 28, 2017