Phoenix–Tao Li, a 39-year-old Chinese national, was sentenced on October 16 to 40 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Li had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to export military- and space-grade technology to the People’s Republic of China without a license in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Between December 2016 and January 2018, Li worked with other individuals in China to purchase radiation-hardened power amplifiers and supervisory circuits and illegally export them from the United States to China. The electronic components sought by Li are capable of withstanding significant levels of radiation and extreme heat, and as a result, are primarily used for military and space applications.
Due to the technological capabilities of the electronic components sought by Li and the significant contribution that the components could make to a foreign country’s military and space programs, both parts required an export license from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, prior to being sent out of the United States. Notwithstanding the licensing requirement, the Department of Commerce has a policy of denial to export these types of electronic components to the People’s Republic of China.
Between December 2016 and January 2018, Li, who resided in China, used multiple aliases to contact individuals in the United States, including representatives of United States-based private companies, to try to obtain the electronic components. Additionally, Li and his coconspirators agreed to pay a “risk fee” to illegally export the electronic components to China. In furtherance of his request, Li wired money from a bank account in China to a bank account in Arizona.
Li was arrested in September 2018 at Los Angeles International Airport, as Li attempted to travel from China to Arizona to meet with one of the undercover agents.