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Florida men plead guilty to fraud in scheme to export biochemicals to China

Two Florida men have pleaded guilty to fraud in the illegal export of biochemicals to China. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
1 of 2 | Two Florida men have pleaded guilty to fraud in the illegal export of biochemicals to China. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 22 (UPI) -- The Justice Department Wednesday said a ringleader and company insider have both pleaded guilty to defrauding biochemical company Sigma-Aldrich Inc., illegally exporting company products to China.

Pen Yu, also known as Ben Yu, pleaded guilty, along with Gregory Munoz, to one count of wire fraud conspiracy in a scheme to defraud the company, which was doing business as MilliporeSigma.

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Munoz was a MilliporeSigma employee.

"When a business uncovers criminal wrongdoing within its ranks, the company is far better off reporting the violation than waiting for the Justice Department to discover it," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a statement. "That's exactly what MilliporeSigma did in the first-ever corporate declination under our National Security Division's voluntary self-disclosure program."

According to the Justice Department, the defendants pleaded guilty to "fraudulently diverting millions of dollars worth of biochemicals to China, and the company will not be prosecuted."

"Millipore Sigma's prompt disclosures led to the uncovering of this multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise, and enabled law enforcement to disrupt the scheme and stop further illegal exports to China," U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida said in a statement. "These disclosures led to the seizure of multiple illegal shipments to China and the conviction of two of the most culpable participants in the scheme."

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Court documents detailed the scheme where Yu ordered biochemicals from MilliporeSigma at deep discounts by "falsely representing that Yu was affiliated with a biology research lab at a large Florida university."

Yu was provided with more than $4.9 million worth of discounts and other benefits, repackaged the chemicals and shipped them to China.

The biochemicals were shipped to a university stockroom but then diverted to Yu.

The scheme was discovered when MilliporeSigma compliance personnel found suspicious orders and promptly reported it to the Department of Justice's National Security Division.

The Justice Department said the company offered exceptional cooperation to prosecutors.

Multiple illegal shipments to China were seized and the Justice Department said MilliporeSigma's prompt and full cooperation was essential in being able to do that.

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