Chinese man to be sentenced next week - facing 20 years

Updated: 2014-05-21 09:28

By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA)

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A federal judge said on Tuesday that she will decide by next week what sentence Chinese national Ma Lisong will serve for pleading guilty to attempting to exporting weapons-grade carbon fiber from the US to China.

Ma pled guilty last year and his lawyer, Hai Ming, told Judge Sandra Townes at a hearing on Tuesday that his client has served an appropriate time in jail for his offense and that he should be given credit for time served and deported back to China.

Ma was arrested last March after attempting to acquire and export specialized materials that are used in the defense and aerospace industries, and therefore controlled for export by the US Commerce Department, according to the Justice Department.

He had emailed an undercover US agent about purchasing different types of high-grade carbon fibers and tried to buy five tons of the fiber. Over an online video teleconference session, Ma and undercover agents discussed licenses required to export carbon fibers, with one of the agents telling Ma that without one, they could possibly go to jail, the Justice Department said.

Assistant US Attorney Seth DuCharme said at the hearing on Tuesday that transcripts of conversations between Ma and the agent showed that Ma was a "willing and active participant" of the transaction, and that it was "made clear" to him that the exports required a license which he did not have.

Homeland Security Investigations administers a website that purports to be for a company that deals in high-technology commodities, and it was through this website that Ma got in touch with the agent, indicating that he wanted to buy an item from the site.

Ma disguised a sample of the fiber that he purchased from an undercover agent and then mailed it in a package that was labeled "clothing", the government said. The package was intercepted and then authorities arrested Ma at the Los Angeles airport where he was awaiting a flight to China.

Hai said that the transcripts "don't reflect true facts" and that his client did submit paperwork required for exporting the fibers, but that the agent "never submitted the application and lied to my client that it was submitted".

Hai also argued that Ma "had no intention to break the law", going as far as to tell the agent his full name and which city in China he was from. "If he was going to commit a serious crime, he wouldn't have shared his real name," Hai said.

Hai told China Daily after the hearing that Ma wanted to use the carbon fibers to make bike frames and to use in second-hand cars. Ma came to the US to buy second-hand cars in California and Florida to sell back in China, Hai said, and had no intention of committing crimes.

"He just wants to go home at this point," Hai said.

Ma, who has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, could face up to 20 years in prison.

In December, another Chinese national, Ming Zhang, was sentenced to 57 months in jail for conspiring to export high-grade carbon fiber. An undercover agent in that case said that Zhang wanted to buy the carbon fiber for a test flight of a Chinese fighter jet, though Zhang's attorney said that he only wanted to buy it to manufacture "high-quality hockey sticks", the New York Daily News reported.