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Security

Engineer who smuggled military chips into China faces 219 years in prison

Yi-Chi Shih and a co-conspirator defrauded a US company of "sensitive semiconductor chips with military applications," according to the Justice Department.

U.S. Department of Justice building

The Department of Justice says two men gained access to an unnamed company's chips.

Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

An electrical engineer has been convicted of smuggling chips with military uses into China. Yi-Chi Shih was found guilty last week in US District Court of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and 17 other counts including mail fraud and wire fraud, the US Department of Justice said Tuesday. Shih faces up to 219 years in prison. 

The IEEPA is a federal law that makes certain unauthorized exports illegal. 

Prosecutors said that Shih, 64, a part-time Los Angeles resident, and co-conspirator Kiet Ahn Mai, 65, of Pasadena, California, illegally gained access to manufactured wide-band, high-power semiconductor chips known as monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) from an unnamed US firm. 

Mai posed as a customer, which allowed Shih to access the company's custom processors. Shih then transferred the chips to the Chengdu GaStone Technology Company, a Chinese firm building an MMIC manufacturing plant, the DOJ said.

Evidence showed Shih defrauded a "U.S. company out of its proprietary, export-controlled items, including its design services for MMICs," according to the DOJ.

Mai pleaded guilty in December to smuggling and faces up to 10 years in prison.