U.S. Woman Convicted of Attempting $50M Military Equipment Sale to China

U.S. Woman Convicted of Attempting $50M Military Equipment Sale to China
Broward Sheriff's Office
San Diego, CA

A 45-year-old woman from San Diego has been sentenced to 50 months in prison for conspiring to broker the $50-million sale of military equipment to China, including fighter jet engines, a drone capable of firing missiles, and related technical data without the required consent of the U.S. government.

Wenxia Man, also known as Wency Man, was born in China and has been a U.S. citizen since 2006.

“The potential for harm to the safety of our fighter pilots, military personnel and national security which would occur had the defendant been successful is immeasurable,” wrote the assistant U.S. attorney in his sentencing recommendation, according to Voice of America (VOA). “It is beyond doubt that Man and Zhang were engaged in efforts to allow the People’s Republic of China to increase its military capabilities and might.”

Man was convicted on June 9 by a federal jury in the Southern District of Florida of one count of conspiring to export and cause the export of defense articles without the required license — in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

“Man was convicted of conspiring to evade U.S. export laws by agreeing to illegally acquire and send to China fighter jet engines, a highly sophisticated military drone and related technical data,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin on June 9. “Circumventing U.S. laws designed to safeguard our most sensitive materials serves to undermine our national security interests and we will aggressively pursue those who try to do so.”

She was facing a maximum of 20 years in prison but was sentenced to 50 months behind bars on Friday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) reports:

According to evidence presented at trial, between approximately March 2011 and June 2013, Man conspired with Xinsheng Zhang, who was located in China, to illegally acquire and export to China defense articles including: Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines used in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines used in the F-22 Raptor fighter jet; General Electric F110-GE-132 engines designed for the F-16 fighter jet; the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Predator B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, capable of firing Hellfire Missiles; and technical data for each of these defense articles.

During the course of the investigation, when talking to an undercover HSI [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations] agent, Man referred to Zhang as a ‘technology spy’ who worked on behalf of the Chinese military to copy items obtained from other countries and stated that he was particularly interested in stealth technology.

VOA reports that the military equipment she conspired to acquire and export was valued at $50 million, adding that “a secondary goal of the scheme, which was never carried out, was for China to reverse engineer the drone and jet engines to create its own.”

The news outlet notes:

Before Wenxia Man was arrested for attempting to broker the $50 million sale of military equipment to the Chinese government, she knew the risks.

In conversations with an undercover federal agent posing as a dealer, the California woman admitted she knew smuggling three jet engines and a drone out of the U.S. would be illegal, according to federal court documents.

Man is the mother of two young children and vice president of a San Diego-based tech parts company. Zhang, who is believed to be residing outside the United States, has not been arrested in connection with the scheme.

China’s embassy in Washington D.C. did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.

VOA points out:

Man stood to receive a $1 million commission on the deal if it had gone through but nearly year-long discussions stalled in 2013.

The U.S. has had an arms embargo against China since 1990; no defense items can be sold or transferred to the country without written government approval, and Man wasn’t a registered broker. Man was arrested in September 2015 and pleaded not guilty to federal charges of Conspiracy to Export and Cause the Export of Defense Articles from the United States and unlicensed brokering of defense articles. A jury convicted her in June.

Man and her accomplice were planning to transport the U.S. military equipment into China through a third country to avoid detection, namely South Korea and Israel, according to court documents.

In May, the Pentagon reported:

There continue to be instances of Chinese nationals located in the United States acting as procurement agents and intermediaries to obtain sensitive or export-restricted U.S. equipment and technologies with military applications. China uses its intelligence services and employs other illicit approaches that violate U.S. laws and export controls to obtain key national security and export-restricted technologies, controlled equipment, and other materials not readily obtainable through commercial means or academia.