A New Orleans furniture salesman pleaded guilty Tuesday to spying for the Chinese government and providing Beijing with secret information on military relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Tai Shen Kuo, a naturalized U.S. citizen with prominent family connections in Taiwan, provided gambling money and promises of a job to a Defense Department analyst who gave him classified information in 2007. Taiwanese military officials have said the disclosures caused some damage but did not compromise key technology.
Kuo, 58, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 8. Lawyers for the Taiwan native said after the hearing they believe he faces a prison term up to nearly 16 years under federal sentencing guidelines.
Kuo pleaded guilty to a single count of espionage in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. In court papers, Kuo admitted that he received $50,000 from the Chinese government for his efforts.
Gambling trips with defense analyst
Kuo provided the defense analyst, Gregg W. Bergersen, several thousand dollars in gambling money on trips the pair took to Las Vegas, as well as promises of employment at a company Kuo hoped to establish. Bergersen, who lives outside Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty to his role in March and faces up to 10 years in prison.
The information Kuo obtained from Bergersen included updates on Taiwan's new Po Sheng or "Broad Victory" air defense system, which is a key part of Taiwan's defenses against a possible attack by China. He also received projections of U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan over the next five years.
Kuo is the son-in-law of Xue Yue, a Chinese nationalist general who was a close associate of Chiang Kai-shek. Bergersen thought Kuo was aligned with Taiwan's defense ministry and was unaware of Kuo's contacts with the People's Republic of China.
A third person charged in the case, Chinese national Yu Xin Kang, who allegedly acted as a go-between for Kuo and Chinese agents, is in jail awaiting trial.
International espionage networks
Kuo's guilty plea "is the latest demonstration of the serious threat posed by international espionage networks," said Patrick Rowan, acting assistant attorney general for national security.
In 2006, former Pentagon intelligence analyst Ronald N. Montaperto was sentenced in Alexandria to three months in jail for unlawful retention of classified documents after admitting he had contacts with two Chinese intelligence officers from as early as 1983 and as recently as 2001.
In February, former Boeing Co. engineer Dongfan "Greg" Chung was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with stealing military and aerospace trade secrets regarding the space shuttle and other programs on China's behalf. He has pleaded not guilty.
And in March, Reston-based technology company WaveLab Inc. pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria to illegally selling technology with potential military applications to China.