CHICAGO (TUSEN) — A former student from Chicago was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison for spying for the Chinese government by gathering information about U.S. scientists and engineers with knowledge of aerospace and satellite technology.
A federal jury in Chicago convicted 31-year-old Ji Chaoqun in September of conspiracy to act as an agent of the Chinese Ministry of State Security without notifying the US Attorney General, act as a spy in the US and lying on a government form about his contacts with foreign agencies.
The allegations alleged that Ji was targeted by agents of the Department of State Security, or MSS, shortly before coming to the US in 2013 to study engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
After traveling back to China for the winter break, prosecutors said Ji was “tasted and dined” by his MSS handlers. He was eventually given a top-secret contract in which he swore an oath of allegiance to the agency’s cause and agreed to “dedicate the rest of my life to state security,” prosecutors said.
Ji eventually collected background reports on eight U.S. citizens, all born in Taiwan or China, with careers in science and technology industries, including several specializing in aerospace, prosecutors said. Seven worked for US defense contractors.
He sent the reports back to his handlers in a zipped attachment that was falsely labeled as sets of “mid-term exam questions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas said at Ji’s trial.
In 2016, a year after Ji graduated from college, he enlisted in the US Army Reserve through a program to recruit foreigners with skills deemed vital to the national interest.
The jury found Ji guilty of giving false answers to a government background form asking if he had ever had contact with foreign intelligence agencies.