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Conspiracy Charges Dropped

Three who had been accused of a plot to steal military secrets now face lesser charges.

November 16, 2005|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Three people who had been arrested on multiple charges of conspiring to steal U.S. military secrets for the People's Republic of China were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on the sole charge of failing to register as agents of a foreign government.

When arrested by the FBI last month, defense plant engineer Chi Mak, his wife, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, and his brother, Tai Wang Mak, were accused of theft of government property, conspiracy and transporting stolen goods. Those charges were dropped Tuesday.

Tai Mak's wife, Fuk Heung Li, was also arrested in October and similarly charged. But she wasn't named in Tuesday's indictment by the grand jury in Santa Ana, and U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said all charges against her were dropped.

The defendants each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of failing to register as foreign agents.

Mrozek said prosecutors decided not to press the initial charges against the defendants because the information about submarine technology they possessed wasn't classified.

"It's sensitive but not classified. Some of the stuff they had is talked about openly at conferences," said Mrozek.

Nevertheless, the data seized is banned from export to certain countries, including China.

Defense attorney Ronald Kaye, who represents Chi Mak, said his client was innocent of all the charges. Tai Mak's attorney declined to comment, and Chiu's attorney could not be reached.

Chi Mak, 65, is the lead project engineer on a contract to develop a quiet electric-drive propulsion system for U.S. Navy submarines at Paragon Power in Anaheim. He and Chiu, 62, are Downey residents who are originally from China. They became U.S. citizens in 1985.

Tai Mak, 56, is a broadcast and engineering director for a Chinese cable network based in Hong Kong. Prosecutors alleged in court last week that he is a member of the Chinese military.

Chi Mak allegedly transferred information about the propulsion system to his home computer, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.

Tai Mak and Fuk allegedly planned to carry a CD encrypted with that information to China.

Tai Mak and Fuk, who live in Alhambra, were arrested Oct. 28 at Los Angeles International Airport as they awaited a flight to China. The couple, both Chinese citizens, are legal residents who arrived in the United States in 2001.

Chi Mak and Chiu were arrested at their Downey home the same day. Chi and Tai Mak were ordered held without bond. Chiu's bond was set at $300,000. Fuk, who was also being held without bond, will be released as soon as possible, Mrozek said.

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