A 33-year-old Chino Hills resident—who provided accounting services for American aerospace companies, including U.S. defense contractors—pleaded guilty this week in Orange County to illegally transferring sensitive military technology to the People’s Republic of China.
Si Chen (a.k.a. Cathy Chen) sent advanced radar, military-grade communications jammers, low-noise amplifiers and Ka-band space communications to Hong Kong in route to China without seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Commerce, according to federal prosecutors.
“Defendant and her co-conspirators executed their conspiracy through multiple entities, including Archangel Systems Space, Inc., Century Electronic International Company and Star Aero Investment Limited, all of which maintained addresses in Shenzhen, China, as well as TAA Electronics, Inc., that used an address in Hong Kong,” Chen acknowledged in her signed guilty plea for activities conducted between 2013 and 2015. “On multiple occasions, [she] made false representations to the suppliers about the end user and country destinations of the items.”
Federal law enforcement officials obtained instructions Chen, whose father is tied to Beijing’s military affairs, received on her disposable cell phone from a mysterious Chinese contact instructing her to always insist the technology would not leave this country.
“[You] mustn’t have any involvement with China” and “don’t contact any companies in Hong Kong or China,” her communist handlers instructed her, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Officials also say they obtained evidence that Chen—who used multiple aliases after arriving in the U.S. in 2007, falsified immigration documents and attended National University in San Diego—received more than $200,000 in payments after making the shipments.
In 2012, Chen married a Chinese man who was hired by an American company for an information technology post after omitting from his resume that he is a graduate of a communist military training school.
Prior to the guilty plea, Chen’s Southern California defense lawyer claimed his client is innocent, but federal prosecutors assert her actions pose “a grave and palpable threat to the national security of the United States.”
Inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney refused Chen’s bail request, citing what he believes is a significant risk she will flee to China to avoid punishment.
With the guilty plea, Carney this week vacated the November trial date and ordered an Oct. 1 sentencing date.
Chen faces a maximum punishment of 50 years in federal prison and a $1.75 million fine.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.