Ji Chaoqun, 31, was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment on Wednesday for spying for China. Pool File Photo by Win McNamee/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A federal judge has sentenced a former U.S. Army reservist to eight years in prison for providing China with information on people who could possibly be recruited to spy on the United States for the Asian nation.
Ji Chaoqun, 31, was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman, the Justice Department said in a release. Ji was arrested in 2018 and convicted in September on several charges connected to his work for the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, a provincial department of China's Ministry of State Security.
The Chinese national arrived in the United States on Aug. 28, 2013, to study, receiving his master's degree in electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in December 2015, court documents state.
According to prosecutors, Ji was formally registered in China as an overseas agent in January 2014.
During Ji's two-trial, evidence showed Xu Yanjun, a career intelligence officer now jailed in the United States, was Ji's handler and had tasked him with gathering the biographical information on those who could be recruited to act as spies.
Prosecutors said Ji provided Xu with information on at least nine individuals.
"The individuals included Chinese nationals who were working as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom worked for U.S. defense contractors," the Justice Department said.
According prosecutors, Ji's mission was part of a Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security effort to obtain access to advanced aerospace and satellite technology being developed in the United States.
Xu, the first Chinese spy to be extradited to the United States to face charges, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in November for being behind several schemes that sought to steal aerospace technology from GE Aviation.
Ji also enlisted in the U.S. Army reserves as an E4 specialist in May 2016 through a program that allowed legal foreign nationals with certain skills such as Chinese fluency.
Prosecutors said that Ji told Xu and the MSS that he had successfully infiltrated the U.S. military and that he planned to quickly obtain citizenship in order to gain top secret security clearance and would seek a job with the CIA, FBI or NASA.
"He intended to perform cybersecurity work at one of those agencies so that he would have access to all their databases, including databases that contained scientific research," the Justice Department said.
In 2018, Ji also had several meetings with an undercover U.S. law enforcement agent posing as a MSS representative whom he told that with his military identification, he could visit and take photos of "Roosevelt-class" aircraft carriers.
Xu was arrested in Belgium on April, 1, 2018, and convicted on Nov. 5, 2021.