September 22, 2014

Two Taiwan Nationals Plead Guilty to International Drug Trafficking, Attempting to Export United States Military Drone Technology to People’s Republic of China

NEWARK, NJ—Two Taiwan nationals today admitted their roles in an international scheme to import narcotics and attempting to export sensitive United States’ military technology, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Hui Sheng Shen, 47, and Huan Ling Chang, 43, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court to one count of conspiracy to import illegal drugs and one count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From June 2010 through February 2012, Shen and Chang engaged in a wide-ranging pattern of global criminal activity that touched on the United States, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

In September 2011, Shen and Chang asked undercover agents from the FBI (UCs) whether they could obtain and pass along highly sensitive American military technology, including defense articles restricted from export, for the benefit of individuals and organizations operating on behalf of the PRC. In December 2011, the UCs told Shen and Chang that the UCs could obtain certain drone technology, including a small drone known as the “RQ-11B,” and a manual for the RQ-4 “Global Hawk” drone, and asked Shen and Chang to find out if their clients were interested in these items. Shen and Chang later e-mailed the UCs that their clients were interested in the RQ-11B (as well as the RQ-4 and related manuals), and asked how much each would cost.

In February 2012, Shen and Chang arrived in New York and told a UC that they purchased cameras to take pictures of military technology. They explained they intended to delete them from the memory cards and use one of their contacts in the PRC to retrieve the deleted photos from the cameras’ memory, avoiding detection by law enforcement.

At another meeting, Shen and Chang examined the RQ-11B, as well as manuals relating to the RQ-4. A UC explained that it was illegal to export any of the items being discussed, and pointed out the warnings to that effect affixed to each of the items. Shen then told the UCs how he and Chang planned to remove the RQ-11B from the United States, and stated that he could use techniques that he had learned from narcotics trafficking, such as using scuba divers to swim out to a ship docked offshore with parts from the RQ-11B, or loading the parts onto a remote controlled semi-submersible vehicle to rendezvous with a ship. Shen and Chang were then shown manuals for the RQ-4 and the RQ-11B, and Shen and Chang took photographs of both manuals. The pair were arrested before they could delete the photographs.

In February 2011 a conspirator introduced Shen and Chang to the UCs at a meeting in Manila. The conspirator and Shen arranged for the delivery of a sample of crystal methamphetamine to the UCs, who then negotiated the purchase of one kilogram of crystal meth for $70,000. In July 2011, the drug was shipped to the United States hidden in a shipping container, which was discovered by law enforcement agents in the exact location described by Shen and Chang.

The drug charge to which Shen and Chang pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The arms export control act violation carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencings are scheduled for January 5, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty pleas. He also thanked officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Robert E. Perez, Director, Field Operations; FBI special agents in Manila, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taiwan; the Philippine authorities; and the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section, Office of Enforcement Operation and Office of International Affairs, for their roles in the case.