4OYS: U.S. trade secret smuggling cases growing

Posted at: 06/16/2014 10:27 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It seems bizarre.  An Iowa State graduate student and ‘Breaking Bad’ fan – and his relative or friend – accused of trying to smuggle U.S. military sensors from Albuquerque to China.  But the investigative team at KOB Eyewitness News 4, which first reported on the case exclusively last week, learned the men’s case may be the tip of the iceberg.

According to a report published by the Department of Justice in November, federal investigators are making it “substantially more difficult” for people to smuggle U.S. trade secrets – including military technology.  The report said “the seizure of just one piece of restricted technology, however innocuous it may seem, can have a tremendous impact on a foreign adversary’s capabilities.”

Since 2008, several high-profile people and companies have either been accused or convicted of trying to share trade secrets with foreign countries.  Among them was a retired professor from the University of Tennessee.  A federal jury convicted Dr. J. Reece Roth of illegally trying to export military technical information, connected to plasma technology that’s used on drones, to China.

In a more recent case in late December, six Chinese nationals were arrested and now face federal charges of conspiracy for trying to steal inbred corn seed from U.S. seed manufacturers near Des Moines, Iowa.  Investigators said the men also wanted to send the seed to China.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque will not comment on the case involving Wentong and Bo Cai since it is still under seal.  But U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez said federal investigators work export enforcement cases “24 hours a day.”

“Let me tell you that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security-- this is one of our top priorities -- to safeguard our national security,” Martinez said. “It's a coordinated effort amongst the federal agencies, amongst the state agencies, and the local agencies here throughout the state.”

Court documents indicate that Wentong and Bo Cai could face $1 million in fines and 20 years in prison if convicted.