ISU Student Accused of Funneling Military Secrets to China

AMES, Iowa – The federal government has accused an Iowa State University student of being a spy using the college to help funnel military secrets to China.

A search warrant was served on the ISU campus last year to gather information from the college’s computers about the alleged smuggling operation. We obtained a copy of that warrant then, but we have held on to it until now because we didn’t want to interfere with the criminal case. That warrant is expected to be unsealed in the coming days.

The search warrant is dated December 30th, 2013, and outlines the case the federal government has built against ISU graduate student Wentong Cai. The warrant claims Wentong tried to buy about 20 ARS-14 military grade sensors under the guise of needing them for research at Iowa State University, but really planned to illegally smuggle them to China.

The sensors are used for ground and aerial military vehicles and are regulated under federal arms trafficking laws.  They also have civilian uses.

According to the document, Wentong tried to buy them from an Albuquerque based manufacturer using his Iowa State University email and ISU letterhead.

Back on October 25 2013, an undercover federal agent contacted Wentong saying that “He/she is a distributor for the ARS 14-sensors. The UCA, (undercover agent) and Wentong Cai went on to have approximately 22 email communications”

Wentong later asked the undercover agent about exporting the sensors to China but was told that is illegal. Then, according to the warrant, the undercover agent explained to Wentong Cai he could smuggle the sensor into China using his “proven method” of transporting the sensors through Mexico to China, and Wentong agreed, knowing it was illegal.

On November 21st, the undercover agent received an email from Wentong saying “Me and my colleague, his name is Bo, in China are planning to visit you in early December.” The email continues, “Bo is working on the money and other stuff, he will contact you later.”

On December 4th, the warrant alleges, the undercover agent received a wire transfer of $27,000 from Bo Cai’s company, Nanjing Shuntai Technology.

On December 9th, the agent met with Bo and Wentong in Albuquerque and the agent again warned the pair that what they are doing is illegal, saying “You know we could all be arrested. I just want you to understand, um, I’m willing to do it. I think your business is good and I think these embargoes with China, they’re crazy.” Bo Cai replied, “What I want is just get the sensor I don’t care how to get it.”

On December 11th, the agent gave Bo Cai one non functioning sensor to take back to China, “concealed within a Dell computer speaker,” the warrant states.

On February 10th, Wentong was arrested in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Both Wentong and Bo Cai are being held in Santa Fe County Jail without bail. A spokeswoman for ISU said this is the first she has heard of these accusations, so she is not able to comment on them.

15 comments

    • John Ahern

      There are several loopholes, but with us (the US) being heavily in debt, it is hard to say no to International Students bringing in money in the form of out of state tuition payed in cash (not loans), on top of all the other spending they will do here to stimulate our economy (buying cars, houses, etc…)

      • Rose

        The US is not “heavily in debt”. In fact, China has about $1.4 trillion more in Corporate debt and the added debt the size of the entire, US banking industry, to their economy, last year. China has drastically, more debt than The USA, even though The USA is bigger, richer and with a mature economy that isn’t predominantly bound to exports.

        You’re wrong and are, simply, perpetuating CCP propaganda, in the hope of convincing us to be careful with them. However, we are one of the few, countries in The World that have no dependency on The Chinese Economy; in fact, they are a drain on us and have held a trade imbalance with us, entirely in their favor, forever.

  • Tu Mach

    How many Red Chinese students are here in the USA, you have as many as spies not including old guys from Taiwan or HK who are turning around and work for the Red Aggressor.

    • Huey

      Most of the Chinese from Hong Kong or Taiwan hate the Chinese government and Communism as they were forced to flee because of it. Heck, my family’s Chinese from Hong Kong and we think China’s government is corrupt

  • Ginny

    I feel like he was just being curious and wanting to take advantage of “opportunities” and make some money aside from being a bio PhD. He was lured and fell into the trap! Had him really been a spy, he was a poorly trained one, and had been too dedicated to scientific research.

    • Zhongkai Chen

      It seems that the agent here is luring the studings into doing something illegal. At first, they just attempted to bring the sensors to China, but “the proven method” offered by the agent makes them turn their intention into action. If they had done these before, I am OK with the method the agent is using. However, if it’s their first time, the agent was actually tricking them.

      • Jen Lynn

        “The proven method” came after all of the other email correspondence. These men weren’t trapped. Boi Cai himself stated that he wanted the sensors and didn’t care how he got them. These agent warned them time and again that what they were doing was illegal and they didn’t care. They are in jail because of their own actions and nobody elses.

  • JJ

    Let’s see. He tried to buy them asking for them to be shipped to China. He was told told that it was illegal, but that the licensed manufacturer had a “proven method” to ship them to China. Oh also did you know that lead pencils are listed as “dual” technology and we banned shipping them to certain countries because they could be used in the production of nuclear weapons? Not a lot of detail in the article, but plenty of speculation.

  • sd

    A clear trap. The students would not think about the sensors and the story would not start without being seduced by the agent.

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