U.S. law enforcement officials on Tuesday announced a series of criminal cases exposing the relentless efforts by Russia, China and Iran to steal sensitive U.S. technologies.
The five cases, which spanned a wide range of protected U.S. technologies, were brought by a new “strike force” created earlier this year to deter foreign adversaries from obtaining advanced U.S. innovation.
“These charges demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to preventing sensitive technology from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries, including Russia, China, and Iran,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, who leads the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and co-heads the task force.
Some of the cases announced on Tuesday go back several years but Olsen said the “threat is as significant as ever.”
Two of the cases involve Russia.
In New York, prosecutors charged a Russian national with smuggling U.S. military and dual-use technologies, including advanced electronics and testing equipment, to Russia through the Netherlands and France. Nikolaos “Nikos” Bogonikolos was arrested last week in France and prosecutors said they’ll seek his extradition.
In a second case, two other Russian nationals – Oleg Sergeyevich Patsulya and Vasilii Sergeyevich Besedin – were arrested in Arizona on May 11 in connection with illegally shipping civilian aircraft parts from the United States to Russian airlines.
Patsulya and Besedin, both residents of Florida, allegedly used their U.S.-based limited liability company to purchase and send the parts, according to court documents.
The three other cases center on China and Iran.
In New York, prosecutors charged a Chinese national for conspiring to provide materials to Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Xiangjiang Qiao, an employee of a Chinese sanctioned company for its role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, allegedly conspired to furnish isostatic graphite, a material used in the production of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, to Iran.
Liming Li, a California resident, was arrested on May 6 on charges of stealing “smart manufacturing” technologies from two companies he worked at and providing them to businesses in China.
Li allegedly offered to help Chinese companies build “their own capabilities,” a federal prosecutor said.
He was arrested at Ontario International Airport after arriving on a flight from Taiwan and has since been in federal custody, the Justice Department said.
The fifth case announced on Tuesday dates back to 2018 and accuses a former Apple software engineer with stealing the company’s proprietary research on autonomous systems, including self-driving cars. The defendant took a flight to China on the day the FBI searched his house.
The charges and arrests stem from the work of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, a joint effort between the departments of justice and transportation.
The initiative, announced in February, leverages the expertise of the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and 14 U.S. attorney’s offices.
Olsen said the cases brought by strike force “demonstrate the breadth and complexity of the threats we face, as well as what is at stake.”
“And they show our ability to accelerate investigations and surge our collective resources to defend against these threats,” Olsen said at a press conference.