A former US Army helicopter pilot turned civilian contractor pleaded guilty today in federal court, admitting that he acted as an unregistered agent for China and accepted thousands of dollars from Chinese government representatives to provide information related to the defense aviation. contracting employers. He also pleaded guilty to making related false statements during national security background checks.
Shapour Moinian, 67, of San Diego, served in the United States Army, Germany, and South Korea from approximately 1977 to 2000. After his service, Moinian worked for various licensed defense contractors in the United States, even in San Diego. as well as the Department of Defense. “Licensed” is a term indicating that a contractor may work on projects involving classified information.
According to his plea agreement, while Moinian was working for a licensed defense contractor, or CDC, on various aviation projects used by the US military and US intelligence agencies, a person in China contacted him and claimed to be working for a technical recruiter. business. This person offered Moinian the opportunity to advise the aviation industry in China.
“Moinian was an agent paid by the Chinese government selling US aviation-related technology,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Justice Department does not tolerate those who help foreign governments break the law to undermine American competitiveness and innovation.”
“This defendant took aviation materials from his US employers and sold them to China,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. “This conduct was an outrageous breach of trust by a former member of the US military. The United States will aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone working under the direction of foreign governments to steal US technology and intellectual property.”
“The People’s Republic of China remains determined to acquire our information and technology. In this case, we saw a former US government employee acting as an agent of the Chinese government and the extensive use of social media by Chinese intelligence officers to identify willing targets,” said Deputy Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “The FBI is committed not only to taking advantage of the defendant’s risk and consequences, but also to confronting the Chinese government’s behavior and policies that threaten our national security and freedom.”
“The defendant admitted to being an unregistered agent of a foreign power, lied about his background check paperwork to obtain his security clearance, knowingly provided proprietary information to individuals controlled by the Chinese government, and willingly received payments from them. This is another example of the Chinese government enhancing its defense capabilities through the illicit exploitation of American technology,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office. “When someone has a security clearance, they know what information needs to be reported to security officers. In this case, the defendant betrayed his sacred oath, knew his actions were wrong, and subsequently lied about it. The FBI and our partners in the Counterintelligence Task Force will go after anyone who abuses their location and access to obtain proprietary information on behalf of a foreign government. I want to specifically thank the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for their continued collaboration on this case.”
“Mr. Moinian sold information to the Chinese government and repeatedly lied to cover up his crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Michelle Kramer of the NCIS Office of Special Projects. “You are now being held accountable for your actions. NCIS and our partners remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the US military and eradicate criminality that threatens the superiority of American fighters.”
In March 2017, Moinian traveled to Hong Kong where he met with this alleged recruiter and agreed to provide information and materials related to multiple types of aircraft designed and/or manufactured in the United States in exchange for money. Moinian accepted approximately $7,000-$10,000 in US currency during that meeting. According to his plea agreement, at this meeting and all subsequent meetings, Moinian knew that these individuals were either employed by or directed by the government of the PRC.
Upon returning to the United States, Moinian began collecting aviation-related materials, including transferring material from a CDC to a USB stick. In September 2017, the defendant traveled abroad and, during a layover at the Shanghai airport, met with Chinese government officials and provided aviation-related materials on a thumb drive, including proprietary information from a CDC. Thereafter, Moinian arranged for the payment of this information through his stepdaughter’s South Korean bank account. Moinian told his stepdaughter that these funds were payment for his consulting work abroad and instructed her to transfer the funds to him in multiple transactions.
Moinian also received a cell phone and other equipment from these individuals to communicate with them and assist in the electronic transfer of materials and information.
At the end of March 2018, Moinian traveled to Bali and met with these same people again. Later that year, he began working at another CDC. During this time period, the same people in China transferred thousands of dollars to the South Korean bank account of Moinian’s stepdaughter, who subsequently transferred the funds to Moinian in multiple transactions.
In August 2019, Moinian again traveled to Hong Kong and met with these same people, where he was again paid approximately $22,000 in cash for his services. Moinian and his wife smuggled this money into the United States.
According to his plea agreement, Moinian also admitted that he lied in his government background questionnaires in July 2017 and March 2020, when he falsely stated that he had no close or ongoing contacts with foreign nationals and that no foreign national had offered him a job. worked. .
At sentencing, Moinian faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for acting as an agent of a foreign government, and up to five years and a fine of $250,000 for the false statements charge. Sentencing is scheduled for August 29.
This case was investigated by the FBI and NCIS and is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.