Ex-Boeing Engineer Sentenced for Economic Espionage

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A former employee of Boeing has been convicted of economic espionage and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.

The Chinese-born man, Dongfan “Greg” Chung, was the first person to be tried in the United States on charges of economic espionage. According to prosecutors, Chung began spying in the 1970s and continued to amass sensitive documents about a booster rocket fueling system. Despite the fact that Boeing employees were ordered to lock the documents up at the conclusion of each workday, Chung took them home and stacked them throughout his house. In all, the former engineer had a total of 300,000 pages of sensitive material, concerning aerospace and defense technologies.

Chung, 74, is believed to have passed some of this information to China, although it is not clear how much knowledge he may have provided to his native country. Chung became a nationalized U.S. citizen in the 1970s, shortly before beginning his employ with Rockwell International, which later purchased Boeing.

Chung worked first for Rockwell and then for Boeing as a stress analyst, and he had a high level of clearance. After the FBI began investigating him, in 2006, he was fired from his position as a consultant at Boeing.

According to court documents, FBI agents found information in Chung’s house about a $16 million fueling system for the Delta IV booster rocket, which helps launch manned space vehicles, as well as documents about the technology for an antenna which would be used on the space shuttle.

China is in the process of developing a space laboratory and a larger, permanent space station. The Chinese government has used docking technologies imported from Russia, so that their spacecraft will be compatible with the International Space Station.

Chung, whose defense in the non-jury trial included the assertion that he was merely a “pack rat,” did admit to violating Boeing policy by bringing home the sensitive documents, but also claimed that he had not broken any laws. Prosecutors had requested a 20-year sentence—meant in part to send a strong message to other spies—but the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, cited Chung’s poor health and advanced age as he meted out the lesser sentence of 15 years and eight months.

Chung had been convicted in July 2009 on six counts of economic espionage and other federal charges. His activities first came to the attention of investigators who were looking into another suspected Chinese spy, Chi Mak, who was later convicted of conspiracy to export U.S. defense technology to China and sentenced to 24 years in prison.

 

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