It’s no secret the United States and the People’s Republic of China don’t have the best relationship when it comes to hacking. Over the years, the latter has denied its involvement in numerous hacking attacks against U.S. targets, including the Office of Personnel Management, that security firms have attributed to the Chinese government.
Unfortunately, U.S. law enforcement doesn’t have recourse to justice if those responsible for the attacks are based in China. But in the event they are physically located within its boundaries, authorities are more than willing to put the offending individuals on trial and, if found guilty, behind bars.
They did just that in the spring of 2016 with Kan Chen and Su Bin. Now, it looks like they’ll be doing the same with another criminal.
On August 19, the Department of Justice sentenced Wenxia Man, also known as Wency Man, 45, of San Diego, to prison for attempting to export data pertaining to U.S. military technology to the People’s Republic of China in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
Court evidence reveals that between approximately March 2011 and June 2013, Man conspired with a Chinese national named Xinsheng Zhang to export to China the engines designed for the F-33, F-22 and F-16 jets, as well the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Predator B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which is capable of launching Hellfire missiles.
Man hoped she would earn a commission of one million dollars by helping deliver the technology to the Chinese military, which would have likely copied the engines and drones to enhance its capabilities.
U.S. authorities began investigating the conspiracy after they received a tip from someone who said Man had asked them about the legality of exporting a jet fighter engine. To gain more information, an undercover Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent talked to Man over the course of nine months.
During that time, they gathered enough evidence proving the San Diego resident was well aware of the severity of her crimes.
Prosecutor Michael Walleisa said as much when Man attempted to plead her innocence in court. As quoted by Sun Sentinel:
“There is hardly a more serious case than as case such as this that involves some of our most sophisticated fighter jet engines and unmanned weaponized aerial drones. 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….”
At the beginning of her trial in federal court, Man was free on a USD 250,000 bond. But that changed when the accused sent text messages to the undercover HSI agent during a break in his two-day testimony. For those violations, the court placed Man in custody.
It wasn’t long afterward that a federal jury convicted the woman of one count of conspiring to export and cause the export of defense articles without the required license on 9 June.
For her crimes, Man will serve 50 months in prison. She will also receive mental health evaluations during and after her imprisonment, at the court’s request.