Justice Department charging US official, Chinese immigrants, in espionage case
Additionally, two immigrants from China and Taiwan accused of working with the defense analyst were arrested after an FBI raid Monday morning on a New Orleans home where one of them lived.
The two cases – based in Alexandria, Va., and Los Angeles – have no connection, and investigators said it was merely a coincidence that charges would be brought against both on the same day.
The arrests mark China’s latest attempts to gain top secret information about U.S. military systems and sales, said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein. He described China as “particularly adept, and particularly determined and methodical in their espionage efforts.”
“The threat is very simple,” Wainstein said at a Justice Department news conference in Washington. “It’s a threat to our national security and to our economic position in the world, a threat that is posed by the relentless efforts of foreign intelligence services to penetrate our security systems and steal our most sensitive military technology and information.”
An official at the Chinese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In China, it was a national holiday and calls to the Foreign Ministry’s Information Department and to a duty officer cell phone number were both answered by voice mail.
In the first case, prosecutors said weapons systems policy analyst Gregg W. Bergersen, 51, of Alexandria, Va., sold classified defense information to a New Orleans furniture salesman. In return, the salesman, a Taiwan native identified as Tai Kuo, a 58-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, forwarded the information to the Chinese government.
The data outlined every planned U.S. sale of weapons or other military technology to Taiwan for the next five years, prosecutors said.
It’s not clear how much money Bergersen received for the classified information, or if he was even aware it was intended for the Chinese government. Court documents portray him as nervous during at least one meeting when he handed over a diskette of documents to be recorded, asking Kuo to keep their deal a secret.
“I’d go to jail, I don’t wanna go to jail,” Bergersen said in a conversation taped by the FBI.
“I’d probably go to jail too,” Kuo responded. Prosecutors described him as chuckling.
A third alleged conspirator in the case, Chinese national Yu Xin Kang, 33, served as the go-between for Kuo and the People’s Republic of China, prosecutors say.
Federal officials on Monday raided two homes owned by Kuo in New Orleans and Houma, La. Bergersen was arrested at his Virginia home early Monday.
Kuo and Bergersen, who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in Arlington, Va., made an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge John Anderson at the federal courthouse in Alexandria. Bergersen was charged with conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Bergersen, who was arrested at his home early Monday, wore a long black T-shirt and blue shorts. His wife, who identified herself only as Ofelia, told reporters Bergersen was innocent and the charges “came out of the blue.”
Tai Kuo was charged with conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government. He faces life in prison if convicted. Kang, 33, who faces the same charges as Kuo, appeared briefly in federal court in New Orleans. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Louis Moore Jr. postponed the hearing until an interpreter could be brought in when it appeared Kang did not understand the charges being read.
In the second, unrelated case, former Boeing engineer Dongfan “Greg” Chung, 72, was charged with working as an unregistered agent for the Chinese government who stole trade secrets from the defense contractor. The stolen data largely focused on aerospace programs, prosecutors said.
Chung, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was indicted last week on espionage, conspiracy and obstructing justices charges that were unsealed Monday. He appeared briefly in court in Santa Ana, Calif., and posted $250,000 property bond.
He has been the subject of an FBI investigation for nearly a year as part of an inquiry into another Chinese-born engineer who was convicted in 2007 of stealing military data for the Chinese government.
As early as 1979, prosecutors said, Chinese officials were tasking Chung to collect data on U.S. aviation, including the space shuttle and various military and civilian aircraft. At one point, Chung responded in a letter that he wanted to “contribute to the motherland,” according to the Justice Department.
Over an 18-year span, Chung traveled to China many times to deliver lectures on the space shuttle and other programs, and he allegedly met with Chinese government officials there to discuss how to transfer U.S. data.
Chung, who has a security clearance, worked for contractor Rockwell International from 1973 until 1996, when Boeing acquired Rockwell’s defense and space firm. He retired from Boeing in 2002 but returned the next year as a contractor. He ultimately left Boeing in 2006.
Associated Press writers Foster Klug in Washington, Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans, Gillian Flaccus in Santa Ana, Calif., and Matthew Barakat in Alexandria, Va., contributed to this report.