updated 10/18/2007 7:56:05 PM ET 2007-10-18T23:56:05

Investigators have filed a criminal complaint against a woman who allegedly tried to buy military equipment for export to China.

According to federal court documents unsealed Thursday, Qing Li first approached undercover agents via e-mail on April 2, 2007, to ask about buying sensors, called piezoresistive accelerometers, typically used for measuring nuclear or chemical explosions.

The devices, made by Endevco Corp. of San Juan Capistrano, can also be used for developing missiles or artillery. It is illegal to export the sensors without State Department approval.

"These devices are simply not for export to China or anywhere else without explicit permission from the U.S. government," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, who oversees illegal export investigations as head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Accelerometers are a designated defense article frequently used in missiles, 'smart bombs' and other major weapons systems and in the wrong hands, could prove catastrophic."

According to the complaint, Li asked for as many as 30 of the $2,500 units to be shipped to mainland China via Hong Kong as "a favor for a friend in China." A co-conspirator who has not been charged in the complaint allegedly told investigators the sensors were for "a special agency, a scientific research institute in China."

Investigators for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said she was arrested Sunday in New York at John F. Kennedy airport. Li, who holds a U.S. green card, had reserved a ticket from New York to Beijing.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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