Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A Chinese citizen serving in the U.S. Army Reserves has been charged with working as a spy for the Chinese government, U.S. attorneys announced Tuesday.
Ji Chaoqun, 27, came to the United States from China in 2013 on an F1 visa to study electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. In 2016, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, which authorizes the U.S. Armed Forces to recruit legal aliens with specialized skills that are considered vital to the national interest, the Justice Department said in a statement.
As he served in the U.S. Army Reserves, the Chinese government had Ji gather information on eight Chinese nationals living in the United States and working as engineers and scientists for potential recruitment for the Chinese government's spy program. Some of the targeted individuals worked for U.S. defense contractors.
"By collecting this information for an arm of the Chinese government while in the United States, Ji knowingly and unlawfully acted as an agent of a foreign power," Andrew K. McKay, an F.B.I. special agent, wrote in the affidavit.
It's not clear when the Ji got on the FBI's radar, but the affidavit indicates he had been under surveillance since at least December 2017.
Emails uncovered via search warrant by U.S. law enforcement indicate Ji had been in contact with Chinese intelligence since coming to the United States.
In April 2018, Ji also unknowingly met with an undercover FBI agent and spoke about people he believed to be Chinese intelligence officers in a "confidential unit."
Ji has been charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires that individuals working for a foreign government in the United States register as such. On at least two occasions, Ji lied about being in contact with a foreign government, prosecutors said.