Plea deal ends case of conspiracy to export technology to China
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- The last defendant in an extended family charged with conspiring to export U.S. defense technology to China has admitted being a foreign agent, bringing the case to an abrupt end, authorities said Wednesday.
Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, 63, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors late Tuesday on the eve of her trial on charges of conspiracy to export defense articles, failure to register as a foreign agent and making false statements to the FBI.
Chiu instead pleaded guilty to one count of acting as a foreign agent without registering with the U.S. government and will serve three years in prison, said her attorney, Stanley Greenberg. The Chinese-born Chiu will leave the United States voluntarily after her release and renounce her U.S. citizenship, he said.
Chiu's husband, Chi Mak, an engineer for the Anaheim-based naval defense contractor Power Paragon, was convicted last month of conspiring to export U.S. defense technology to China, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, attempting to violate export control laws and making false statements to the FBI. He faces 45 years in prison when sentenced on Sept. 10.
In the past week, three other family members: Mak's brother, sister-in-law and nephew reached deals with prosecutors in which they pleaded guilty to charges involving violations of export control laws.
The evidence against Chiu "was pretty much the same" as the evidence against Mak, Greenberg said. "Essentially, she made a calculated decision to allow her to get along with the rest of her life, that will allow her to get out of prison before she's 80."
Prosecutors alleged that Mak, who worked on some the Navy's most sensitive technology projects in his job as lead engineer, took thousands of documents from his employer and conspired to pass them to Chinese government officials with the help of his extended family.
The government alleged in court papers that Mak, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had been passing information to the Chinese since 1983 and had a handler in China named "Mr. Pu."
Mak was arrested in late 2005 in Los Angeles after FBI agents stopped his brother and sister-in-law as they boarded a flight to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China.
Investigators said they found three encrypted CDs in their luggage that contained documents on a submarine propulsion system, a solid-state power switch for ships and a Power Point presentation on the future of power electronics.
Mak's brother, Tai Mak, faces 10 years in prison. His wife, Fuk Li, faces three years of probation and their son, Yui "Billy" Mak, is expected to be sentenced to time already served. The three are not U.S. citizens and will be deported after completing their sentences, prosecutors said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)