Two Chinese nationals are suspected of trying to smuggle sensors made in New Mexico for United States military use, US federal authorities said.
A federal magistrate judge unsealed two search warrants related to the case last week, the Albuquerque Journal reported on Sunday. Much of the case remains sealed, however.
According to the affidavit, Cai Bo, 28, and Cai Wentong, a 29-year-old graduate student in Iowa, were both arrested within the past six months after being caught in an undercover sting operation. They are facing charges of smuggling goods and violating the Arms Export Control Act. The act mandates that certain items being shipped to China, Syria and Sudan have an export license.
Both visited Albuquerque last December to meet with an undercover agent about buying the sensors, which were created for military guidance systems.
Both men could face 20 years in prison and up to US$1 million in fines. Bo has been in the Santa Fe County Jail since his December arrest. Wentong was booked and released from the same jail.
Both men came to Albuquerque in December and met with an undercover US Homeland Security Investigations agent. According to the complaint, Wentong was a fan of Breaking Bad, the AMC drama series which filmed in Albuquerque. The agent said he gave Wentong a tour of locations featured on the show and took mobile phone photos of the suspect.
Bo was arrested at a Los Angeles airport in December as he was about to board a plane to China. He believed that he had an ARS-14 sensor in his possession, authorities said. Wentong was taken into custody in January in Iowa.
A graduate research assistant in veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine, Wentong was accused of trying to buy as many as 20 sensors for research projects. According to the search warrant, the agent depicted himself as a distributor. The agent said the graduate student expressed curiosity about shipping them to China, knowing it would be illegal without a license.
In the affidavit, the agent said he warned them that the sensors had traceable serial numbers. He also told them if “they run the numbers and they come back to me, we could all be arrested. I just want you to understand.”