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.