A former U.S. Army reservist was convicted of acting within the United States as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China, the Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday. File Photo by Paul Hanna/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A former U.S. Army reservist was convicted of acting within the United States as an illegal agent of the People's Republic of China, the Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday.
A federal jury convicted Ji Chaoqun on one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, one count of acting as an agent of the People's Republic of China without first notifying the Attorney General; and one count of making a material false statement to the U.S. Army.
A jury acquitted the 31-year-old on two counts of wire fraud, according to the Justice Department. The verdict was returned late on Monday.
Ji, a Chinese citizen and former graduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, worked at the direction of a high-level intelligence officer in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, the Justice Department said in a statement. The provincial department is part of China's Ministry of State Security.
A joint investigation conducted by the Justice Department's National Security Division, FBI and U.S. Army 902nd Military Intelligence Group found Ji was tasked with compiling background information on individuals for possible recruitment by the state security agency. The list of possible recruits included Chinese nationals working as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom were U.S. defense contractors.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors contended Ji was targeted by Chinese agents shortly before traveling to Chicago in 2013, where he studied electrical engineering.
When he returned to China during a break, he was formally recruited and swore an oath to "devote the rest of my life to state security."
He later enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2016, under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program. The program authorizes the military to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered vital to the national interest.
Ji faces up to 10 years in prison for acting as an illegal Chinese agent and up to five years for the conspiracy and false statement offenses. U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman did not immediately set a sentencing date.