The Department of Justice (DOJ) sentenced a San Diego man who formerly served in the U.S. army to 20 months in prison for selling military secrets to the Chinese government Monday.
Shapour Moinian, 67, worked for U.S. defense contractors on aviation projects used by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies for nearly 20 years after separation from the U.S. Army in 2000, according to a DOJ press release. While working for an unnamed contractor, a Chinese operative claiming to work for a technology company recruited Moinian to consult for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) military and provide sensitive technology obtained through his work.
“This was industrial espionage, bordering on military espionage … These were extremely serious offenses against the United States,” U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller told the defendant at Monday’s hearing, according to a press release from the Southern District of California Attorney’s office.
Moinian accepted approximately $29,000 in U.S. currency over the course of his espionage career, the DOJ alleged.
While working for the “cleared” defense contractors, or those permitted by the U.S. government to work with classified information, in March 2017, Moinian met with the recruiter in Hong Kong, according to the DOJ. He accepted between $7,000 and $10,000 at that meeting, where he agreed to transfer “information and materials related to multiple types of aircraft designed and/or manufactured in the United States.”
Moinian knowingly agreed to work with PRC-controlled individuals since the first meeting in 2017, the plea agreement shows.
Moinian met with his recruiters at least three additional times in Shanghai, Bali and Hong Kong, between March 2017 and August 2019, where he smuggled trade secrets to the PRC handlers inscribed on a thumb drive, the DOJ said. He also held multiple phone calls with the Chinese individuals.
Those same individuals transferred thousands of dollars to a South Korean bank account belonging to Moinian’s stepdaughter, who subsequently wired the funds to Moinian in small amounts.
The DOJ also charged Moinian with falsely representing his affiliation with foreign agents on security questionnaires filled out in 2017 and 2020.
Mr. Moinian deserves to be held fully accountable for betraying his oath to the United States, selling sensitive information to the Chinese government, and lying repeatedly to cover up his crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Brice Miller of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigated the case alongside the FBI.
Moinian pleaded guilty in June
Western leaders have warned that the PRC has supercharged its espionage activities in effort to outpace U.S. advances in military modernization. Much of the technology used has come from Western components bought or stolen by entities associated with the Chinese military.
In September, a federal jury found a Chinese national and former U.S. military reservist guilty of acting as an undisclosed PRC agent in the U.S.