SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A Chinese-born engineer stole trade
secrets critical to the U.S. space program and passed them to China
for three decades without detection, prosecutors said Tuesday in
the first economic espionage case to reach trial in the United
Prosecutors laid out their case against Dongfan "Greg" Chung,
73, in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. The Chinese-born engineer
has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, economic
espionage, lying to federal agents, obstruction of justice and
acting as a foreign agent.
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Staples
said Chung, 73, gained the trust of Boeing Co. and his previous
employer, Rockwell International, and used his job as a stress
analyst at the companies to steal more than 250,000 pages of
The documents included trade secrets on a phased array antenna
for the U.S. space shuttle and on the Delta IV booster rocket,
according to government allegations.
"Information, security and betrayal: These are the three
pillars of the government's case," he said. "Boeing builds
things, but the crucial point in this case is, nothing gets built
without information, the kind of information we're talking about."
"You can call it God or you can call it the devil, but it is
success that is in the details and it is the details that the
government is going to show the defendant had in his house and
collected for the PRC (People's Republic of China)," he said.
"The details are the difference between getting into space and
ending up with a plaything for children in a park."
Staples said that in come cases the alleged information theft
involved processes that seem mundane, such as documents on how to
solder metal so it can withstand space travel.
"This seems trivial but it's not. Millions of lives depend on,
'Did you do the right job soldering?"' Staples said.
Defense attorney Tom Bienert countered that the government would
not be able to prove his client had done anything wrong,
particularly after 2003, which is when the defense believes the
statute of limitations expired.
He also downplayed the importance of what Chung allegedly took
for the Chinese.
"There simply will be no evidence that my client transferred
any information to the People's Republic of China ... much less
anything that would be a trade secret," Bienert said.
Bienert also showed the judge pictures of his client's house
with papers and books on every available surface, stacked on the
floor and overflowing the bathtub. He said that explained why FBI
agents found a quarter-million pages of Boeing documents there.
"What you're going to find is that my client is a pack rat,"
he said. "With all respect to my client, his house gives new
meaning to clutter."
Six similar cases have settled before trial since the Economic
Espionage Act passed in 1996.
Chung worked for Rockwell International until it was bought by
Boeing in 1996 and remained with the aerospace giant until he was
laid off in 2002. He was brought back as a consultant on stress
analysis after the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003 and was
fired when the FBI began its probe in 2006.
The government believes Chung began spying for the Chinese in
the late 1970s, just a few years after he became a U.S. citizen and
was hired by Rockwell.
In a letter cited in court documents, Chung allegedly explains
to a Chinese contact that he sent three sets of volumes dealing
with flight stress analysis to China via sea freight and discusses
what prosecutors say is his motive.
"Having been a Chinese compatriot for over thirty years and
being proud of the achievements by the people's efforts for the
motherland, I am regretful for not contributing anything,"
according to the letter to the contact at the Harbin Institute of
Technology in northern China. "I would like to make an effort to
contribute to the Four Modernizations of China."
Prosecutors say they discovered Chung's activities while
investigating the case of another suspected Chinese spy, Chi Mak.
Searches of Mak's house turned up an address book and a letter
containing Chung's name.
Mak was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy to export U.S. defense
technology to China and sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.
Mak, however, was not charged under the Economic Espionage Act.