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Couple Denied Bail in Spy Investigation

The pair planned to hand-carry sensitive U.S. military data to China, prosecutors say.

November 08, 2005|Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

A federal judge in Santa Ana denied bail Monday to two recent Chinese immigrants after a prosecutor alleged they were arrested as they were about to leave for China with a compact disc encrypted with highly sensitive U.S. military data.

Tai Wang Mak, a broadcast and engineering director for a Chinese television station in the U.S., and his wife, Fuk Heung Li, were arrested Oct. 28 after counterintelligence officers concluded that the couple planned to hand-carry to China a CD encrypted with information on U.S. Navy submarine technology. Tai Mak's brother, Chi Mak, and his wife, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, were also arrested.

In the still unfolding case, Assistant U.S. Atty. Deidre Z. Eliot said Monday that Chi Mak told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that Tai Mak is a member of the Chinese military.

The information concerned an electric-drive propulsion system for U.S. submarines that would quiet noise and therefore enhance stealth for the fleet, authorities have said. The information allegedly was provided by Chi Mak, the lead project engineer at Power Paragon in Anaheim. Providing the technology to certain countries has been banned by the U.S. according to an FBI agent's affidavit.

Chi Mak and Chiu are originally from China and became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1985. Tai Mak and Fuk came to the United States four years ago and are lawful permanent residents. Chi Mak has been held without bond since his arrest. Chiu remains in custody with bond set at $300,000.

Tai Mak's attorney, John Early, said there was no proof the information on the disk recovered by the FBI was classified. Early also argued that the government was making unsubstantiated claims about the significance of the case.

Tai Mak "has not been charged with espionage," Early said. "I didn't hear the word 'classified' ... in any of that information."

The FBI agent's affidavit does not identify any of the allegedly stolen information in the case as classified but does describe the defendants as foreign intelligence agents who were collecting and copying a variety of important Navy technologies.

With wiretaps, secret searches and other surveillance tactics, authorities said, they uncovered substantial evidence that the two couples were engaged in a longtime conspiracy whereby Tai Mak collected information that could be passed on to his brother and eventually to China.

During a search of garbage at Chi Mak's home in Downey, authorities said, agents found a number of documents torn into pieces, including a list of military technologies being sought by China such as a space-based electromagnetic intercept system, aircraft carrier electronic systems, defense against nuclear attack technology and data on the next-generation destroyer known as the DDX.

The next court appearance for the defendants is scheduled within two weeks.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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