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5th defendant in Chinese spy case makes plea deal

On the eve of her trial, she agrees to serve three years in prison. She could have gotten 10 if convicted.

June 07, 2007|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A Downey woman accused of being part of a ring that sent information about sensitive U.S. military technology to China pleaded guilty on the eve of her trial.

Rebecca Chiu, 63, pleaded guilty Tuesday night to acting as an unregistered agent of China and agreed to serve 36 months in federal prison, said defense attorney Stanley Greenberg. Chiu, a naturalized U.S. citizen, also agreed to renounce her American citizenship, he said.

The agreement with the U.S. attorney's office was reached after lengthy negotiations. Opening statements in Chiu's trial were to begin Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. She is scheduled to be sentenced in October and was allowed to remain free on bail.

She is the last defendant in a case involving five family members convicted of passing unclassified but sensitive data about U.S. naval technology to the Chinese.

Chiu's husband, Chi Mak, was found guilty last month of conspiracy to violate export-control laws, attempting to violate export-control laws, acting as an unregistered agent for China and lying to the FBI.

Mak, 66, is an electrical engineer who worked at an Anaheim-based defense firm. He will be sentenced in September and faces up to 45 years in prison.

Chiu agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a shorter sentence, Greenberg said. She would have faced a maximum 10 years in prison if convicted by a jury, "a sentence that would in effect be a life sentence for her," said the attorney.

"She made a calculated decision to eliminate the possibility of a long prison term in exchange for a short one so she could go on with her life," said Greenberg.

Mak's brother and sister-in-law and their son also entered guilty pleas this month and were awaiting sentencing. Tai Mak, 57, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate export-control laws.

His wife, Fuk Heung Li, 49, and son, Yui "Billy" Mak, 26, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the violation of export-control laws. They live in Alhambra.

The five defendants were accused of transferring data onto three encrypted disks that Tai Mak and Li attempted to transport to China in October 2005. Prosecutors said the data was embargoed from China.

The material included information on an electric propulsion system for warships, a solid-state power switch for ships and the future of power electronics.

--

hgreza@latimes.com

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