Federal agents wiretapped a Chinese-American engineer accused of conspiring to send information on U.S. military technology to China, using linguists to translate the mix of Chinese dialects they recorded, an FBI agent testified Thursday.
Chi Mak, 66, is on trial in U.S. District Court and is accused of using his position at Anaheim defense contractor Power Paragon to steal advanced naval technology. He has pleaded not guilty.
Many of the recorded conversations were in a mix of Cantonese, Mandarin and Shanghainese, and were relayed to FBI linguists who summarized the conversations or transcribed them verbatim for investigators, Special Agent James Gaylord testified.
The wiretaps were placed between June 2004 and October 2005 and included closed-circuit TV cameras above the dining and computer rooms of his home in a Los Angeles suburb, said Gaylord, lead investigator in the probe.
Engineer's family also indicted
Mak has been charged with conspiracy to export defense secrets to China, failure to register as a foreign agent, attempted and actual export of defense articles, and making false statements. If convicted, he could get more than 50 years in prison.
His wife, brother and other relatives have also been indicted.
Prosecutors described Mak as a longtime agent who had been sending sensitive material to China since 1983, two years before he became a U.S. citizen. Federal agents asked Mak why he did it, and he replied that he wanted to help China, prosecutors said.
Mak's attorneys vehemently denied that Mak confessed, calling him a devoted American who never forwarded material he thought was restricted. One of the documents in question had even been presented at a public conference and was available on the Internet, they said.
The government of China denounced the allegations in the Mak case.
"We have reiterated many times that allegations that China stole U.S. military secrets are groundless and made out of ulterior motives," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a news conference Thursday in Beijing.