Federal Prosecutors: Chinese Citizen Arrested in Chicago For Spying on U.S. Engineers

Ji Chaoqun, 27, a Chinese citizen living in Chicago was arrested in Chicago on Tuesday for spying on U.S. engineers, including defense contractors.

Ji Chaoqun arrived in the U.S. in 2013 on an F1 Visa.

Chaoqun has been charged with one count of knowingly acting as a foreign agent on U.S. soil.

Via the Department of Justice:

Ji worked at the direction of a high-level intelligence officer in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, a provincial department of the Ministry of State Security for the People’s Republic of China, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  Ji was tasked with providing the intelligence officer with biographical information on eight individuals for possible recruitment by the JSSD, the complaint states.  The individuals included Chinese nationals who were working as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom were U.S. defense contractors, according to the complaint.

The complaint charges Ji with one count of knowingly acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General.  He will make an initial court appearance today at 5:00 p.m. EDT (4:00 p.m. CDT) before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason in Courtroom 2266 of the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago.

According to the complaint, Ji was born in China and arrived in the United States in 2013 on an F1 Visa, for the purpose of studying electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  In 2016, Ji enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves as an E4 Specialist under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which authorizes 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 specifically denied having had contact with a foreign government within the past seven years, the complaint states.  In a subsequent interview with a U.S. Army officer, Ji again failed to disclose his relationship and contacts with the intelligence officer, the charge alleges.

In July, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China, not Russia is the “most significant” long-term threat facing the US today.

“I think China from a counterintelligence perspective represents in many ways represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country,” Wray said.

He said that China’s espionage efforts are “a whole of state effort” that includes “economic espionage as well as traditional espionage and human sources as well as cyber means.”

“The volume of it, the pervasive of it, the significance of it, is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray continued.

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