Updated Feb 8, 2024 - World

Californian accused of stealing secret U.S.-made missile tech to assist China

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers remarks alongside Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite at the U.S. Justice Department on November 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco (left) and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Department of Justice announced charges in two separate cases Wednesday over allegedly "sophisticated schemes to transfer sensitive technology, goods, and information" to benefit the governments of China and Iran.

The big picture: In one case in California, Chenguang Gong, a 57-year-old U.S. citizen who was born in China, is accused of stealing trade secrets developed for use by the U.S. government to detect nuclear missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles, per a DOJ statement.

  • This technology "would be dangerous to U.S. national security if obtained by international actors," according to court documents filed in the case against the former engineer from San Jose.
  • Gong is accused of transferring over 3,600 files from the Los Angeles County research and development firm, where he worked from January-April 2023 — which allegedly included blueprints for infrared sensors "used in space-based systems to detect nuclear missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles."

Separately, two Iranian nationals in New York were charged with conspiring to export equipment used in the aerospace industry to Iran in relation to allegations of conspiracy to illegally export U.S. goods and technology without the required licenses.

  • Abolfazi Bazzazi, 79, and his son Mohammad Resa Bazzazi, 43, are accused of trying to evade U.S. sanctions and export laws by working to illegally procure goods and technology from U.S. companies for the Iranian government from 2008 to 2019.
  • "Our foreign adversaries use many tactics to gain access to critical U.S. technologies and innovation," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement. "In this instance, it's alleged that the Bazzazis illegally attempted to export U.S. goods and technology to the Iranian government."

Zoom out: The cases come one year after the launch of the DOJ's Disruptive Technology Strike Force, which aims to prevent nation-state adversaries from stealing critical U.S. technologies.

  • "Today's charges against three additional defendants for seeking to illegally transfer U.S. software and semiconductor technology with military applications to benefit Iran and China highlight the critical importance of our fight against this national security threat," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Jim Mancuso, assistant director of the global trade division at Homeland Security Investigations, told ABC News Wednesday that the governments of Iran, China and Russia were all "attempting to illegally acquire" American technology.

Flashback: DOJ arrests 4 people in cases of U.S. tech theft for Russia, China, Iran

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen.

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