A 27-year-old Chinese national who live in Chicago was arrested on Tuesday over allegations that he spied on behalf of China. He reportedly helped in the process of recruiting engineers, scientists and defense contractors in the United States for intelligence services in China.
Ji Chaoqun was charged with violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act for knowingly acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the US Attorney General.
“By collecting this information for an arm of the Chinese government while in the United States, Ji knowingly and unlawfully acted as an agent of a foreign power,” Andrew McKay, an FBI agent who specializes in espionage, wrote in the criminal complaint and affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Ji was allegedly working with high-ranking intelligence officials of China and was tasked to provide information from background checks of eight individuals for possible recruitment as Chinese spies.
According to The Guardian, the eight individuals were naturalized American citizens who were born in China or Taiwan. They either worked or currently worke as scientists and engineers in the United States.
“They just wanted me to purchase some documents on their behalf,” Ji allegedly said. “Their reason was just because it was inconvenient for them to make payments from China.”
McKay’s affidavit further claimed that one of these targeted individuals was an engineer at one of the top aircraft engines suppliers in the world for both military and commercial aircraft.
“Ji worked at the direction of a high-level intelligence officer in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, a provincial department of the Ministry of State Security for the People’s Republic of China,” the U.S. Attorney General’s Office in Chicago said in a statement.
Ji arrived in Chicago five years ago on a student visa to study electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He also enlisted in the US Army Reserves under a program that allows recruitment of foreign nationals whose skills are considered vital to national interest.
Ji met with US undercover agents in April and May after one of his handlers was arrested. He then admitted what he does, which includes collecting background checks.
The arrest took place just months after former CIA case officer Kevin Mallory was found guilty in a China espionage case, which case prosecutors said was not an isolated incident. In June, former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was also charged with spying for China.