San Jose man faces up to 30 years in prison for smuggling US aircraft technology from NASA contractor to China

A San Jose, California man has been charged with smuggling and violating export control laws after he allegedly sent sensitive aircraft software to a public university in Beijing.

Jonathan Yet Wing Soong, 34, worked as a program administrator for the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) between April 2016 and September 2020. program agreement (STA),” according to a Press release released Thursday by the US Department of Justice.

As a program administrator, Soong had primary access to sensitive data. He generated software licenses and physically exported software, among other tasks.

The 19-page complaint against Soong alleged that he “facilitated the sale and transfer of software” to Beihang University – also known as Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA) – which happens to be included in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s strictly regulated “Entity List.” Due to his involvement in military rocket systems and the Chinese government’s unmanned aerial vehicle systems, Beihang is on the list and he he is prohibited from receiving certain unlicensed items.

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Soong reportedly exported CIFER, an unmanned aircraft production software package. Prosecutors said he learned of Beihang’s Entity Listing in April 2017, but facilitated CIFER’s transfer to Beihang and succeeded in July 2018.

A certain Beijing Rainbow Technical Development Ltd. served as an intermediary, according to the complaint. Soong allegedly received payment from this intermediary after arranging the transfer from CIFER and sending his access codes to Beihang.

The USRA would have received a bank transfer of $2,182 for the sale in January 2018. According to the complaint, Soong also admitted that the nonprofit did not always get payments for the software it sold, as some of it went to his own account.

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“He claimed that when customers wanted to pay by credit card, the USRA did not have a method in place to accept credit card payments. He claimed that he justified the payments as granting himself a “bonus” and estimated that he had stolen “tens of thousands” over the years,” the complaint states.

Soong was charged with a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and one count of contraband. Violating the IEEPA is punishable by a $1 million fine and up to 20 years in prison, while the contraband count is subject to a $250,000 fine and jail term. maximum prison term of 10 years.

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Image selected via brianchenming (DC BY 2.0)

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