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Chinese chap in the clink for trying to swap US Navy FPGAs with fakes to beat export ban

15 months for fishing chips

A Chinese national starts a 15-month stretch behind bars for trying to swap reprogrammable chips destined for the US Navy with fakes, and smuggle the real gear out of the country.

Xianfeng Zuo, 38, was sentenced on Friday in Connecticut after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. Zuo, of Shenzhen, China, will also be required to pay $63,000 in cash.

US prosecutors said Zuo, along with two other people, devised a scheme to illegally purchase and export a handful of Xilinx FPGA chips designed for military and space use.

Zuo and two other men, Jiang Yan and Daofu Zhang, who worked for two semiconductor sellers in China, contacted an undercover federal agent to buy the Xilinx parts and ship them back to the Middle Kingdom. The undercover fed was pretending to be a US-based seller of chips.

"In the summer of 2015, Zuo asked Yan to locate and purchase several advanced ICs made by Xilinx Corp, which had military applications, including radiation tolerance for uses in space," the DoJ said. "Yan then asked a US individual to locate the Xilinx ICs and sell them to Yan."

When told it is illegal to export the chips to China and that the components are only available to the US military, the group tried to convince the seller to steal a handful of the parts from the US Navy and cover his tracks by replacing the stolen chips with knockoffs.

The DoJ did not say what the group planned to do with the chips once they returned to China.

The trio even went so far as to provide the seller with the counterfeit chips and arrange a meet-up with the undercover agent in Connecticut to pay for the stolen chips before flying back to China with the loot. When the crooks met at the agreed location, all three were arrested and charged with offenses including receiving stolen government property and conspiracy.

Zhang previously admitted a counterfeit goods charge and got 15 months; Yan, who is also accused of selling counterfeit Intel processors to the Navy in a separate case, pleaded guilty too, and is awaiting sentencing. ®

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