updated 2/19/2008 9:21:12 PM ET 2008-02-20T02:21:12

A federal magistrate entered a not-guilty plea Tuesday on behalf of a Chinese-American engineer charged with stealing military and aerospace trade secrets for years on behalf of China.

An indictment unsealed last week charges Dongfan "Greg" Chung, 72, with economic espionage, conspiracy, acting as a foreign agent, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.

Chung, who is free on bail, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc Goldman in Santa Ana. Goldman set a trial date of April 8.

Defense attorney Ken Miller had no comment outside court.

The government alleges Chung stole trade secrets on the space shuttle, C-17 military transport plane and the Delta IV rocket during his decades of employment at Rockwell International and Boeing Co.

The case against Chung grew out of an investigation into another Chinese-American engineer who worked for a U.S. naval contractor in Anaheim. That engineer, Chi Mak, was convicted last year of conspiring to export U.S. defense technology to China and other crimes. He is awaiting sentencing.

Had secret clearance
Chung, a stress analyst with secret clearance, worked at space shuttle-builder Rockwell International in Downey until it was bought by Boeing in 1996. He stayed on at Boeing until he retired in 2002, but returned a year later as a contractor before retiring permanently in 2006.

Prosecutors allege he began receiving "tasking lists" from Chinese aviation officials as early as 1979 and sent three manuals dealing with space shuttle flight stress analysis to China by sea freight around that time, according to court documents.

In 1985, Chung traveled to China without his employer's knowledge and lectured on aircraft and space technology at government-controlled universities and aircraft manufacturers, authorities contend.

Military materials uncovered
He then collected manuals on aircraft fatigue and design of the F-100 fighter, X-15 rocket plane and B-70 bomber, prosecutors allege.

The government believes those manuals reached China, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ivy Wang said. Investigators found a trove of other material allegedly stolen from Boeing in a crawl space under his home in Orange, she said.

During the 2006 search of Chung's home, investigators found documents on the space shuttle's phased-array communications system, Boeing's heavy-lift Delta IV space booster and the Air Force's C-17 Globemaster III troop and cargo transport, according to court documents.

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