Ex-US Army pilot-turned-defense contractor ‘sold classified aviation technology secrets to China’
A retired US military helicopter pilot turned civil defense contractor pleaded guilty Thursday to selling classified aviation technology secrets to China for up to $32,000.
Shapour Moinian, 67, of San Diego, admitted in federal court that he was acting as an agent for the Chinese government and that he had provided President Xi Jinping’s regime with classified aviation-related information from his employers on defense contracts.
Moinian also pleaded guilty to making related false statements during national security background checks.
The former US military helicopter pilot now faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for acting as a foreign government agent, and up to five years and $250,000 for counting false statements.
Shapour Moinian, 67, of San Diego, admitted in federal court that he was acting as an agent for the Chinese government and that he had provided President Xi Jinping’s regime with classified aviation-related information from his employers on defense contracts. Stock image
Sentencing is scheduled for August 29. As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than 20 months.
Monion traveled to Hong Kong in 2017, where he reportedly agreed to provide information on multiple types of aircraft designed in the US in exchange for about $10,000.
At that meeting and all subsequent meetings, Monian knew that those in attendance were employed by the Chinese government, according to his advocacy agreement.
When he returned to the US he started collecting aviation related material and transferring it to a memory stick.
In September of that year, he met Chinese government officials and handed them the hard drive, which contained CDC proprietary information.
He then arranged the payment through his stepdaughter’s South Korean bank account.
Moinian also pleaded guilty to making related false statements during national security background checks. Stock image
Moinian told his stepdaughter that this money was payment for his consulting work abroad and instructed her to transfer the money to him in multiple transactions.
Moinian also received a cell phone and other equipment from these individuals to communicate with them and assist in the electronic transmission of materials and information.
In late March 2018, Moinian traveled to Bali and met the same officials again. Later that year, he began working at another CDC. During this time, the same people in China transferred thousands of dollars into the South Korean bank account of Moinian’s stepdaughter, who then transferred the money to Moinian in multiple transactions.
In August 2019, Moinian traveled to Hong Kong again and met the same officials where he was again paid approximately $22,000 in cash for his services. Moinian and his wife smuggled this money back to the United States.
According to his plea deal, Moinian also admitted to lying about his government’s background surveys in July 2017 and March 2020, when he falsely stated that he had no close or ongoing contacts with foreigners and that no foreigner hired him. offered .
Moinian served in the military in the United States, Germany, and South Korea from approximately 1977 to 2000.
Sentencing is scheduled for August 29. As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than 20 months. Stock image
After his military service, he worked for several licensed defense contractors in the United States – including San Diego – and for the Department of Defense.
“Cleared” is a term that indicates that a contractor is allowed to work on projects involving confidential information.
Under his plea deal, while working for a licensed defense contractor, or CDC, on various aviation projects used by the US military and US intelligence, Moinian was contacted by a person in China who claimed to work for a tech recruiting company. company. This person offered Moinian the opportunity to consult for the aviation industry in China.
“Moinian was a paid agent for the Chinese government who sold US aviation-related technology,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“The Justice Department will not tolerate people who help foreign governments break the law to undermine American competitiveness and innovation.”
“This defendant took the aviation materials from his American employers and sold them to China,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California.
This behavior was an outrageous breach of trust by a former member of the US military. The United States will aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone who works on behalf of foreign governments to steal American technology and intellectual property.”
“The People’s Republic of China remains determined to acquire our information and technology. In this case, we witnessed a former US government employee acting as an agent of the Chinese government and witnessed the extensive use of social media by Chinese intelligence agencies to identify willing targets,” said Deputy Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Department.
“The FBI is committed not only to exploiting the risks and consequences to the suspect, but also to addressing the conduct and policies of the Chinese government that threaten our national security and freedom.”
The defendant admitted to being an unregistered agent of a foreign power, lied on his background check to obtain his security clearance, and knowingly provided confidential information to people under the control of the Chinese government, and willingly received payments from them. This is another example of how the Chinese government is improving its defense capabilities through the illegal exploitation of American technology,” said Special Commander Stacey Moy of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office.
“If someone has a security clearance, they know what information to pass on to security officials. In this case, the defendant betrayed his sacred oath, knew his actions were wrong, and then lied about it. The FBI and our partners in the Counterintelligence Task Force will prosecute anyone who abuses their placement and access to obtain proprietary information on behalf of a foreign government. In particular, I would like to thank the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for their continued cooperation in this matter.”
‘Mr. Moinian sold information to the Chinese government and lied repeatedly to cover up his crimes,” said Michelle Kramer, special officer of the NCIS Office of Special Projects. Now he is being held accountable for his actions. NCIS and our partners remain unwavering in our commitment to protecting the US military and eradicating the crime that threatens the superiority of the US warfighter.”
This case has been investigated by the FBI and NCIS and is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.