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Californian gets 50 months in prison for Chinese 'technology spy' work

Apparent jet and drone export plot foiled

A sting operation by the US Department of Homeland Security has netted one California woman a 50-month sojourn in prison after she was found guilty of trying to break the US Arms Export Control Act.

The court heard that between March 2011 and June 2013, Wenxia Man, 45, of San Diego, worked with a Chinese national – who she described as a "technology spy" – to obtain classified military hardware and its schematics for export to the Middle Kingdom for a $1m payoff.

"I'm innocent," Man told the judge, The Sun-Sentinel reports. "This is my country, too."

Man, a computer science graduate, worked with her husband running a mobile phone components business, and investigators were tipped off by a third party that she was looking for classified military hardware. Over a nine-month period, an undercover agent exchanged a series of emails and text messages about her plans, pretending he could source the materials.

On Man's shopping list were such items as the Pratt & Whitney and General Electric jet engines for the F‑35, F‑22, and F‑16 fighter jets, and a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Predator B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Hellfire missile capability. She was also after anything she could get on stealth technology, the court heard.

"There is hardly a more serious case than a case such as this, that involves some of our most sophisticated fighter jet engines and unmanned weaponized aerial drones," said prosecutor Michael Walleisa.

"The potential for harm to the safety of our fighter pilots, military personnel and national security which would occur had the defendant been successful is immeasurable."

Her defense argued that Man was suffering from mental health issues at the time of her offences and was unlikely to have been able to get hold of any of the top-secret items on the technology spy's list.

"It was our position that there was no conspiracy and that she was entrapped," her lawyer Alex Strassman said. "It was pretty clear what would have happened if the government would have left her alone. Nothing more would have happened."

In her judgement, US District Judge Beth Bloom said she was satisfied Man knew what she was doing was wrong, although she also did have a degree of mental impairment. She was ordered to receive mental health treatment during and after her sentence. ®

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