updated 8/8/2008 7:12:32 PM ET 2008-08-08T23:12:32

A New Orleans furniture salesman who spied for China and helped the Beijing government obtain secret U.S. military information was sentenced Friday to nearly 16 years in prison.

The sentence for Tai Kuo, 58, was in line with what prosecutors had requested and more than twice as long as the term sought by defense lawyers.

"I have no one to blame but myself," Kuo told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema at Friday's sentencing hearing. "I'm going to shoulder this remorse and guilt for the rest of my life."

Kuo, a native of Taiwan and a naturalized U.S. citizen, masqueraded as a Taiwanese agent when in fact he was working for the government in Beijing. He convinced a Pentagon analyst to give him classified information about U.S.-Taiwanese military relations.

Preliminary assessments by the Department of Defense have determined that the actual damage inflicted by Kuo to national security was minimal, but analysts have not yet completed their review.

Court records indicate that Kuo received $50,000 for his actions from an unidentified Chinese agent, who lured Kuo into espionage with promises of helping him secure business deals in China.

Kuo in turn gave thousands of dollars in gambling money and gifts to the Pentagon analyst who aided his efforts, along with an offer of future employment.

Kuo is a member of a well-known Taiwanese family; he is the son-in-law of Xue Yue, a Chinese nationalist general who was a close associate of Chiang Kai-shek.

Kuo was also prominent in Louisiana's business community. He came to the U.S. in 1972 and attended Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, on a tennis scholarship before building his own business.

The 188-month prison term imposed by Brinkema is significantly longer than the 57-month sentence for the Pentagon analyst who provided the documents to Kuo, Gregg W. Bergersen, and the 18-month sentence for Yu Xin Kang, a girlfriend of Kuo who sometimes helped him in transmitting documents.

In the cases of Bergersen and Kang, Brinkema reduced the sentences substantially from what was recommended in sentencing guidelines. But she refused a defense request to do the same for Kuo, ruling that Kuo was more culpable and that his actions ensnared Kang in a criminal enterprise in which she otherwise would not have been involved.

It is possible, though, that prosecutors will file a motion at a later date to reduce Kuo's sentence if he cooperates with an ongoing investigation.

The Kuo case is one of more than a dozen in the last few years involving either traditional spying or economic espionage related to China. U.S. officials have warned in the last year of increasing espionage efforts by Beijing.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments