A Chinese national was sentenced today to eight years in prison for acting illegally within the United States as an agent of the People’s Republic of China.
A jury in the Northern District of Illinois last year convicted Ji Chaoqun, 31, on one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, specifically the People’s Republic of China, without first notifying the Attorney General; one count of acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China without first notifying the Attorney General; and one count of making a material false statement to the U.S. Army. U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman imposed the sentence.
Evidence presented at trial revealed that Ji worked at the direction of high-level intelligence officers in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, a provincial department of the Ministry of State Security for the People’s Republic of China. Ji, a Chinese citizen residing in Chicago, was tasked by Xu Yanjun, a Deputy Division Director within the Ministry of State Security, with providing an intelligence officer with biographical information on certain individuals for possible recruitment by the JSSD. The individuals included Chinese nationals who were working as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom worked for U.S. defense contractors. This tasking was part of an effort by the Jiangsu provincial department to obtain access to advanced aerospace and satellite technologies being developed by companies within the U.S. Xu was sentenced last year to 20 years in federal prison after being convicted in the Southern District of Ohio of conspiracy and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.
In 2016, Ji enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, which authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered vital to the national interest. In his application to participate in the MAVNI program, Ji falsely stated that he had not had contact with a foreign government within the past seven years. In a subsequent interview with a U.S. Army officer, Ji again failed to disclose his relationship and contacts with a foreign intelligence officer.
Evidence at trial further revealed that in 2018 Ji had several meetings with an undercover law enforcement agent who was posing as a representative of the Ministry of State Security. During these meetings, Ji explained that with his military identification, he could visit and take photos of “Roosevelt-class” aircraft carriers. Ji also explained that once he obtained his U.S. citizenship and security clearance through the MAVNI program, he would seek a job at the CIA, FBI or NASA. Ji intended to perform cybersecurity work at one of those agencies so that he would have access to all their databases, including databases that contained scientific research.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois and Special Agent in Charge Robert W. “Wes” Wheeler Jr. of the FBI Chicago Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI investigated the case, with valuable assistance provided by the U.S. Army 902nd Military Intelligence Group.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vikas Didwania and Barry Jonas for the Northern District of Illinois, and Senior Trial Attorney Heather Schmidt of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted the case.