KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A nuclear engineer pleaded guilty to violating the Atomic Energy Act by using United States information to improve China's nuclear program.
Szuhsiung Ho, also known as Allen Ho, 66, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully engage or participate in the production or development of special nuclear material outside the United States, without the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ho and his defense team and Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley Jr. agreed to a deal that would allow him to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for providing he U.S. government with information on China's nuclear program, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Ho and his energy firm, Energy Technology International, were indicted in April 2016 for attempting to lure U.S.-based experts from the civil nuclear industry to assist China's largest nuclear power company, China General Nuclear Power Company.
Case records showed Ho gathered engineers from 1997 to April 2016 to help CGNPC design and manufacture nuclear reactors more quickly.
The Tennessee Valley Authority Office of the Inspector General began the investigation after expressing concerns about one of its senior executives, engineer Ching Huey, to the FBI.
Huey later admitted that Ho and the Chinese government paid him to provide information about nuclear power production and flew him to China.
Ho's case is the first in the nation to deal with nuclear espionage involving China, brought under a provision of law that regulates sharing U.S. nuclear technology with countries deemed too untrustworthy to see it.
Atchley insisted that Ho was paid millions of dollars by the Chinese government to participate in the alleged spy work.
Ho was a naturalized U.S. citizen but lived in China most of the time.
The information Ho obtained could be used to generate power as well as produce nuclear weapons, but Ho said he simply wanted to make money by using the U.S. information to help speed up and make cheaper nuclear energy in China.
Ho's sentencing is scheduled for May 17. He face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.