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Former Chinese Exchange Student Turns Out to be a Spy

A Chinese foreign exchange student and his handler were accused by the U.S. government of attempting to steal trade secrets from American companies. While most companies sell stuff on the internet, some companies actually produce innovative technologies that are protected by patents. If there is one thing communists do not care about, it’s patents or intellectual property. The student was accused of collecting the names of major scientists and engineers to target for theft of trade secrets. His handler was also convicted at trial in the first criminal case against a Chinese spy in the history of the U.S.

The student was caught after attempting to recruit a contact stateside. He texted a picture of his contract with the Chinese intelligence agency MSS. Prosecutors used this image to convict the student. However, they had to explain to the jury why a Chinese spy would use his cell phone to text spy contracts. They managed to convince the jury that while spies tend to have a very select skill set, not all of them are of James Bond quality. In fact, the Chinese government likely recruited the student because he was an electrical engineering major and not because he was a smooth sociopath acting at the behest of his national interests. The student seemed particularly interested in scientists from China and Taiwan working in the aerospace field. Seven of the scientists worked for U.S. defense contractors. 

The student graduated from college in 2015 and then enlisted in the army reserves through a program that attracts foreign nationals with specialized skills considered vital to U.S. military defense. 

Did He Do Anything Illegal?

This is the sad part for the foreign exchange student. All he really did was gather the names of individuals and then perform internet background searches on them. In other words, you too could have gotten all of this information using the same basic tactics that this Chinese spy did. Unfortunately for him, he had a contract between himself and the Chinese government on his phone in which he pledged his allegiance to the Chinese government’s national security interests. If not for the snapshot of the contract, it is not really clear that he did anything illegal. Gathering information on people is not illegal. But when you have a piece of paper that says that you are a spy, then it is illegal. Why?

Well, he is not being charged with performing internet background checks. Instead, he is being charged with failing to disclose his relationship to MSS. So, it looks a lot like that photo he took on his phone is going to put him away for the next ten years before he gets deported. 

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

David Freidberg represents the interests of those charged with serious crimes in the Chicago area. Call today at (312) 560-7100, and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.

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