A federal jury yesterday convicted a Chinese national and former Army reservist of acting in the United States as an unlawful agent of the People’s Republic of China.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Ji Chaoqun, 31, of Chicago, was convicted of one count of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government, by particular of the People’s Republic of China, without first informing the Attorney General; one count of acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China without first notifying the Attorney General; and one count of making a material false statement to the U.S. military. The jury acquitted Ji of two counts of wire fraud.
Evidence presented during the two-week trial revealed that Ji worked under the direction of a high-level intelligence officer at the Jiangsu Provincial Ministry of State Security (JSSD), a provincial department of the Ministry of Security. State Security of the People’s Republic of China. Ji, a Chinese citizen residing in Chicago, was tasked with providing the intelligence officer with biographical information on certain individuals for possible recruitment by the JSSD. The individuals included Chinese nationals who worked as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom were US defense contractors.
In 2016, Ji enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to recruit certain legal foreigners whose skills are considered vital to the national interest. In his application for participation in the MAVNI program, Ji falsely stated that he had had no contact with any foreign government in the past seven years. During a subsequent interview with a US Army officer, Ji again failed to disclose his relationship and contacts with the intelligence officer.
Ji faces up to 10 years in prison for acting in the United States as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China and up to five years for the offenses of conspiracy and misrepresentation. A sentencing date has not yet been set. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division; U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois; and Deputy Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division made the announcement.
The FBI investigated the case, with valuable assistance from the US Army’s 902nd Military Intelligence Group.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vikas Didwania and Barry Jonas for the Northern District of Illinois and Senior Prosecutor Heather Schmidt of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section are pursuing the case.