DOJ Warns Against Travelling with Sensitive Information in Contravention of Export Controls

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Stinson - Government Contracting Matters

On November 18, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a Chinese national and naturalized citizen of the United States was sentenced to 38 months in prison for travelling to China with unclassified military-related technical information. Wei Sun was employed as an electrical engineer with Raytheon Missiles and Defense for ten years. During this time, he had access to defense technical information related to the development and production of missiles, which information was export controlled pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

As relevant to this prosecution, Mr. Sun, knowing that he was not legally allowed to do so, travelled from the United States to China on a personal trip with his Raytheon-issued computer, which contained data related to an advanced missile guidance system that was controlled by the AECA and ITAR. This was illegal in that Mr. Sun did not obtain an export license for this travel, essentially delivering controlled technology to China without permission, in violation of the AECA and ITAR. Mr. Sun ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the AECA and was subsequently sentenced to over three years in prison.

The DOJ’s press release emphasized that this “sentence should stand as a warning to others who might be tempted to similarly put the nation’s security at risk.” Indeed, contractors should take care to know which export controls and information safeguards are applicable to their business and to train their employees on the same in order to avoid a bad outcome such as this one.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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