Archive for the ‘China’ Category

The Fall and Rise of ZTE

2018/05/30

By: Danielle Hatch

In early 2017 China’s largest telecommunications company agreed to pay a nearly $900 million penalty to the US after entering a guilty plea for illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea. ZTE was charged with 380 violations of the EAR, including (1) Conspiracy (2) Acting with Knowledge of a violation in Connection with Unlicensed Shipments of Telecommunications Items to North Korea via China and (3) Evasion. The company also entered into a settlement with OFAC for violating the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”; 31 CFR Part 560). More Information on these charges can be found here.

A March 2017 Order suspended the 7-year denial of ZTE’s export privileges as well as $300 million of the nearly $900 million penalty if ZTE complied with several probationary conditions. The conditions required ZTE, among other things, to submit six audit reports related to their compliance with US export regulations as well as truthful disclosures of any requested information (Section 764.2(g) of the EAR).

One of the many requirements of The Settlement Agreement and March 2017 Order was that ZTE provide BIS with a status report on specific employees related to the violations found during the investigation or identified in two letters (sent November 30, 2016 and July 20, 2017) that ZTE sent to employees regarding the violations. During BIS’s investigation there were 9 specific employees named related to violations, later, ZTE would identify a total of 39 employees who would have action taken against them related to the violations.

ZTE’s November letter to employees was sent while BIS was investigating the company’s violations and ZTE explained that they had self-initiated employee disciplinary actions that it had begun to take as well as additional actions that they would take in the future that would, be “necessary to achieve the Company’s goals of disciplining those involved and sending a strong message to ZTE employees about the Company’s commitment to compliance.”

ZTE’s July letter was similar to the November letter and once again asserted the company’s commitment to compliance and claimed that the disciplinary actions had sent a strong message to ZTE employees. The letter “confirmed that the measures detailed by ZTE with respect to discipline have been implemented” specifically to the nine named employees identified during the investigation. It should be noted that the individuals that were identified by enforcement agents were those that were signatories on an internal ZTE memorandum on how to evade US export controls or were identified on that memorandum as a “project core member” and/or had met with ZTE’s then CEO to discuss means to continue to evade US laws. In a nutshell, BIS wanted to see that ZTE had reprimanded the 39 employees and officials that were related to the violations through the two letters that they sent.

Cue the problem, which ultimately caused BIS to propose activation of suspended sanctions. ZTE didn’t really send those letters of reprimand as timely as they had led BIS to believe. Come to find out, the November 30, 2016 letter wasn’t sent to employees until February 2, 2018. Not to mention, all but one of the identified individuals received their full 2016 bonus, ZTE originally said this compensation would either be cancelled or decreased.

On March 6, 2018, ZTE indicated, via outside counsel that it had made false statements in the November and July letters. On March 13, 2018 BIS notified ZTE of a proposed activation of the sanctions conditionally-suspended under the Settlement Agreement and the March 2017 Order based on the company breaking the cooperation provision related to providing the US government with false statements. The notice letter to ZTE gave the company an opportunity to respond, of which they provided the following (found in FR 17646):

“In its letter, ZTE confirmed the false statements and, as discussed further infra, posed certain questions in rhetorical fashion. ZTE then proceeded to summarize its response upon ‘‘discovering’’ the failure to implement the stated employee disciplinary actions prior to March 2018, including its decision to notify BIS of the failures. The company also described the asserted remedial steps it had taken to date, including the issuance in March 2018, of the letters of reprimand that were to have been sent in 2016–2017. ZTE additionally asserted that, for current employees whose 2016 bonus should have been reduced (by 30% to 50%), it would deduct the corresponding amount from their 2017 annual bonuses ‘‘to the extent permitted under Chinese law.’’ ZTE also said it will pursue recovery from (certain) former employees of bonus payments for 2016 that the company had informed the U.S. Government would be reduced, but, contrary to those statements, were paid in full. Finally, ZTE reiterated what it described as the company’s serious commitment to export control compliance and summarized its plan to continue its internal investigation of the matter.”

Ultimately, the US Government found that this was the last straw for ZTE. They released the following statement and activated the suspended denial order in full and to suspend the export privileges for ZTE for a period of seven years (until March 13, 2025).

“In issuing the March 13, 2018 notice letter to ZTE, and in considering ZTE’s response, I have taken into account the course of ZTE’s dealings with the U.S. Government during BIS’s multi-year investigation, which demonstrate a pattern of deception, false statements, and repeated violations. I note the multiple false and misleading statements made to the U.S. Government during its investigation of ZTE’s violations of the Regulations, and the behavior and actions of ZTE since then. ZTE’s July 20, 2017 letter is brimming with false statements in violation of § 764.2(g) of the Regulations and is the latest in a pattern of the company making untruthful statements to the U.S. Government and only admitting to its culpability when compelled by circumstances to do so. That pattern can be seen in the November 30, 2016 letter, which falsely documented steps the company said it was taking and had taken, as well as in the 96 admitted evasion violations described in the PCL, which detailed the company’s efforts to destroy evidence of its continued export control violations.”

Here’s where the story gets interesting…

On May 13, 2018 President Donald Trump pledged in a tweet to help give ZTE “a way back into business, fast,” “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” Trump tweeted, adding that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help the company resume operations.

A day later, amid criticism over why Chinese jobs were a priority during trade and investment negotiations with China, Trump tweeted: “ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.”

Just last week it was released that a deal was in the works between Commerce and China that would involve China buying more US farm goods and removing tariffs on imported US agricultural products in exchange for the denial order against ZTE to be reconsidered. ZTE would still face “harsh” punishment, including enforced changes of management and changes at the board level.

Rumors are swirling that there was a “handshake deal” on ZTE between U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He during talks in Washington last week that would remove the ban in exchange for the purchase of more US agricultural products. Another person said China may eliminate tariffs on US agriculture products it assessed in response to US steel duties, and that ZTE could still be forced to replace its leadership, among other penalties. Both sources said the deal, which has not been confirmed, will likely be finalized before or during a planned trip by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to Beijing next week to help reach a broader trade pact to avert a trade war.

Additional Details:

Federal Register: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-04-23/pdf/2018-08354.pdf

Article: https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-china-zte-talks/update-1-u-s-china-nearing-deal-to-remove-u-s-sales-ban-against-zte-sources-idUSL3N1ST1WX

Article: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-zte-ban/chinas-zte-says-main-business-operations-cease-due-to-u-s-ban-idUSKBN1IA1XF


US Firms Part Ways with China’s ZTE Monitor

2018/02/08

In early 2017 China’s largest telecommunications company agreed to pay a nearly $900 million penalty to the US after entering a guilty plea for illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea. ZTE was charged with 380 violations of the EAR, including (1) Conspiracy (2) Acting with Knowledge of a violation in Connection with Unlicensed Shipments of Telecommunications Items to North Korea via China and (3) Evasion. The company also entered into a settlement with OFAC for violating the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”; 31 CFR Part 560). More Information on these charges can be found here.

Part of the settlement with OFAC required the company to hire an initial independent compliance monitor approved by the US government for a three-year term. The monitor is responsible for preparing the initial three annual audit reports to be provided to the US government. In addition, ZTE had to hire an independent compliance auditor, also approved by the US government, for an additional three years to prepare the remaining three annual audit reports.

Guidepost Solutions and Larkin Trade International were hired in June 2017 by the US monitor, James Stanton, a Texas civil and personal injury lawyer in charge of the oversite regime for ZTE. Stanton’s job is to help evaluate ZTE’s US export controls compliance and sanctions laws, and mitigate any future violations. US District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who presided over the ZTE sanctions case, actually rewrote the agreement to put Stanton in charge of monitoring the company before signing off on the plea deal. It has been said that Stanton has a lack of experience in US trade controls and the order naming him is sealed, leaving the reasoning behind the judge’s decision unclear. This situation is a bit of an anomaly because generally, the Department of Justice chooses an independent monitor in corporate criminal cases from candidates proposed by the company, which is how the agreement was originally written before Judge Kinkeade rewrote it. ZTE and the Justice Department agreed to Judge Kinkeade’s choice and the changes to the monitorship agreement, sources said, because the plea had already been negotiated and filed in the judge’s court and a temporary license allowing ZTE to continue to obtain US made goods was about to expire.

In December 2017, rumors broke out that Guidepost Solutions and Larkin Trade International had resigned in August 2017 from the job of actively auditing ZTE. Although the exact reason is unclear, some say it was a result of  Stanton restricting their access to ZTE documents and officials, which ultimately hindered their ability to effectively monitor the company. Stanton’s first report was due to the US government last month and this report, as well as the subsequent 2 reports will decide whether the company is liable for an additional fine of $300 million or being added to the US denial list.

Nearly all parties related to the case, including Guidepost Solutions, Larkin Trade International, Judge Ed Kinkeade, and James Stanton have all declined requests for comments based on this news. Additional details about this story and the ties between Judge Kinkeade and James Stanton can be found at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-zte-exclusive/u-s-experts-resign-from-monitoring-chinas-zte-corp-sources-idUSKBN1EG03R


Seiler Instrument to Pay $1.5 Million in Forfeiture to the United States

2018/02/08

Source: Department of Justice

Seiler Instrument & Manufacturing Company, Inc., a Kirkwood-based defense contractor, admits fault to the company’s use of optical materials imported from China in the weapons sights which the company improperly certified as compliant with the Buy American Act and will pay the United States $1,500,000.00 in forfeiture. The company manufactured the parts under a series of contracts with the Department of Defense. Pursuant to a pretrial diversion agreement Seiler Instrument has made an initial payment of $500,000.00 and will make additional payments of $500,000.00 in each of the next two years. The company also agrees to enter a plea of guilty to a false statement charge in the event that the company does not meet the full terms of the agreement.

Seiler Instrument is a long-time defense contractor which specializes in the production of fire control systems, including sighting devices for weapons, which are used on all United States Military Howitzer and mortar systems.  The pretrial agreement concluded after an investigation into the company’s business practices and how its proceedings reflect import and export regulations governing the procurement of materials used to manufacture defense systems. Two of these provisions include the Buy American Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations which place limitations on the export of restricted technical data used in the procurement and manufacturing process to countries such as China. The agreement states that Seiler Instrument took actions to correct problems and has further agreed to have its compliance program monitored by the Department of Defense.

This case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General), the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Army CID Major Procurement Fraud Unit and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security – Office of Export Enforcement, Chicago Field Office. The Defense Contract Management Agency also provided substantial assistance in this investigation.

More Details: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edmo/pr/seiler-instrument-pay-15-million-forfeiture-united-states


Miltech, Inc. of Northampton, MA Receives 18 Charges of Alleged Export Violations

2017/11/15

By: Ashleigh Foor

On September 25, 2017, Miltech, Inc. of Northampton, MA was charged a civil penalty of $230,000 due to engaging in conduct prohibited by the EAR when it exported items subject to the EAR from the United States to China and Russia without the required BIS Licenses. On eighteen separate occasions between, on, or around October 14, 2011 and July 14, 2014, Miltech exported active multiplier chains, items classified under Export Control Classification Number (“ECCN”) 3A001.b.4 and valued in total at approximately $364,947, without seeking or obtaining the licenses required for these exports pursuant to section 742.4 of the EAR. These items are controlled on national security and anti-terrorism grounds.

Miltech received 18 charges of 15 C.F.R. § 764.2(a) for engaging in prohibited conduct. $180,000 of the $230,000 penalty must be paid within 30 days, and the remaining $50,000 will be suspended and waived after two years if Miltech fulfills the terms of its settlement agreement and this order.  The company will not be debarred if penalty is paid as agreed and Miltech complies with other terms of this settlement.


Chinese National Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Export “Bananas”

2017/05/11

By: Danielle McClellan

For the past 6 years, 53 year old Fuyi Sun has attempted to purchase carbon fiber for the Chinese military (according to court records). A few years ago Sun contacted what he thought was a US company that distributed carbon fiber, but was, in fact, an undercover entity created by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and staffed by undercover agents. The company, “UC Company,” was asked by Sun to supply M60 Carbon Fiber which is a high-grade carbon fiber that is used in sophisticated aerospace and defense applications, specifically for drones and other government defense applications. M60 Carbon Fiber requires a license for export to China for nuclear non-proliferation and anti-terrorism reasons.

During the course of the relationship between UC Company and Sun, he often suggested various security measures they should take to make sure they would both remain protected from the “U.S. Intelligence.” He instructed the undercover agents to use the word “banana” instead of “carbon fiber” in all communications…he inquired about purchasing 450 kilograms of banana in one email. He also instructed agents to remove identifying barcodes for the carbon fiber, prior to transshipment,  and instructed them to identify it as “acrylic fiber” in customs documentation.

On April 11, 2016, Sun traveled from China to New York to purchase the M60 Carbon Fiber from UC Company. On April 11th and 12th Sun met with undercover agents and suggested to them that the Chinese military was the ultimate end-user for the carbon fiber, he also explained that he personally worked in the Chinese missile program. He further asserted that he had a close relationship with the Chinese military, and would be supplying the M60 Carbon Fiber to the Chinese military or to institutions closely associated with it. He agreed to purchase two cases of the carbon fiber on the 12th from UC Company and provided them with $23,000 in cash for the carbon fiber and then provided an additional $2,000 as compensation for the risk that he believed they were taking to illegally export the carbon fiber to China without a license. Sun was arrested the next day.

Sun pled guilty to attempting to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum sentence in this case will be prescribed by Congress. Sun will be sentenced on July 26, 2017.

Details: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/chinese-national-pleads-guilty-attempting-illegally-export-high-grade-carbon-fiber-china


Exporting to Hong Kong? Don’t Forget Your Written Proof for Hong Kong!

2017/05/11

By: John Black

Effective April 19, 2017, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has new documentation requirements for export and reexports under licenses and license exceptions to and from Hong Kong.

BIS will  require persons planning on exporting and reexporting to Hong Kong any items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and controlled on the Commerce Control List (CCL) for national security (NS), missile technology (MT), nuclear nonproliferation (NP column 1), or chemical and biological weapons (CB) reasons to obtain, prior to the export or reexport, a copy of a Hong Kong import license or a written statement from the Hong Kong Government that such a license is not required. The purpose of this change is to require that the Hong Kong Government issue an import license as an acknowledgement that sensitive EAR-controlled items are entering Hong Kong and as an agreement to prevent unauthorized reexport or transfer of those items to prohibited destinations. Interestingly, the prohibited destination that most concerns the US is the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The EAR treats Hong Kong as a separate “country” from the PRC even though the PRC, the United Nations, and nearly everybody else in the world considers Hong Kong to be part of the PRC because Hong Kong is part of the PRC.

Leaving behind the interesting point that the EAR treats Hong Kong as if it is not part of the PRC, there are a lot of details in this new rule. In addition what was described above, this rule will also require persons planning on reexporting from Hong Kong any item subject to the EAR and controlled for NS, MT, NP column 1, or CB reasons to obtain a Hong Kong export license or a statement from Hong Kong government that such a license is not required.

View full details of the rule at http://www.learnexportcompliance.com/News/The-Export-Control-Update-February-2017.aspx#EAR

BIS FAQs Related to Rule: https://bis.doc.gov/index.php/policy-guidance/foreign-import-export-license-requirements/hong-kong

Federal Register: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-01-19/pdf/2017-00446.pdf


Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Sensitive Military Documents from United Technologies and Exporting Them to China

2017/01/31

By: Danielle McClellan

Yu Long, 38, a citizen of China and permanent resident of the US, plead guilty on December 19, 2016 to one count of conspiracy to engage in the theft of trade secrets as well as one count of unlawful export and attempted export of defense articles from the US. Long worked as a Senior Engineer/Scientist at United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) from May 2008 to May 2014 where he worked on F119 and F135 engines. During this time Long always intended to return to China to work on research projects at state-run universities in China using the knowledge and materials he was acquiring at UTRC. During 2013 and 2014, Long was recruited by Shenyang Institute of automation (SIA), of China, where he substantiated claims that he could provide documents from his work at UTRC and examples of projects on which he worked.

On May 30, 2014, Long left URTC and began travelling back and forth between the US and China with a UTRC external hard drive that he unlawfully retained after his employment ended. On November 7, 2014, Long was arrested, two days after he attempted to board a plane to China with sensitive, proprietary and export controlled documents from Rolls Royce, not URTC. His checked baggage was inspected by CBP officer in Newark, NJ, where the hard drive was found with all of the proprietary, export controlled information.

After his digital media was seized it was found that he had voluminous files protected by the ITAR and EAR, as well as files proprietary to UTRC, Pratt, and Rolls Royce. UTRC confirmed that the hard drive that he stole and accessed in China contained not only documents and data from projects long worked on, but also from projects that he did not work on. It was found that he obtained Pratt and Rolls Royce proprietary information from a project that the US Air Force had convened a consortium of major defense contractors to work together to see if they could collectively lower the costs of specific metals used.

A sentencing date has not been set but Long faces a maximum term of imprisonment for 15 years for the theft of trade secrets charge and 20 years of imprisonment for violated the Arms Export Act.

More Information: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/chinese-national-admits-stealing-sensitive-military-program-documents-united-technologies


Entrapment or Conspiracy? Either Way…Woman Sentenced to Over 4 Years in Prison for Conspiracy to Export to China

2016/09/06

By: Danielle McClellan

Wenxia Man, aka Wency Man, 45 of San Diego, was sentenced this month to 50 months in prison for conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control act by trying to export and cause the export of fighter jet engines, an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) and related technical data to the People’s Republic of China.

Wency Man ran a family business with her husband that produced small electronic components used in cell phones and some radio devices. Around March 2011 she began trying to find jet fighter industry sources to help her find out what it would take to export a fighter jet to China. One of her “jet fighter industry source” contacts alerted federal authorities to Man and an undercover investigation was launched. Eventually Man began communicating with an undercover agent who said he worked for a fictitious company in Broward County; he told Man he could get her the following items on her list:

  • Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines used in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter;
  • Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines used in the F-22 Raptor fighter jet;
  • General Electric F110-GE-132 engines designed for the F-16 fighter jet;
  • General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Predator B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, capable of firing Hellfire Missiles; and
  • Technical data for each of these defense articles

Wency was trying to get all of the listed items sent to Xinsheng Zhang in China. Zhang works for the China military and the items would have been used by the government of China. Man explained to the undercover agent that Zhang was a “technology spy” and wanted stealth technology. The drone that he wanted was $50 million, and that didn’t include any of the fighter jets.

On June 9, 2016, Man was convicted of one count of conspiring to export and cause the export of defense articles without the required license, although it should be noted that this export would never have been approved by the US government. Man’s lawyer attempted to have the jury verdict thrown out based on the fact that, “It was our position that there was no conspiracy and that she was entrapped,” Alex Strassman (Man’s lawyer) said. “It was pretty clear what would have happened if the government would have left her alone. Nothing more would have happened.”

Fast forward a few months and Wency has been sentenced to 50 months in prison which proves that conspiring can be just as bad as following thru…even if there was almost zero percent chance of your plan actually becoming a reality.

Read More: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/california-woman-sentenced-50-months-prison-conspiring-illegally-export-fighter-jet-engines

Editor’s Note:  This story reminded me of the great song by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  –JB

Wency Man

She had ITAR drones
And tech data by the score
All advanced technology
For export out the door

Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was
Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was

 

Hot section and stealth
They made up her bed
A technology spy
By which she was led

Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was

Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was

 

She procured technology
For her country and Peking
Of her honor and her glory
The people would sing

Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was

Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was

A conviction found her
“You’re guilty” the judge cried
No lawyer could save her
But she didn’t get fried
Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was
Ooooh, what a Wency Man she was


Company Pays $100,000 for One Transfer of ITAR Technical Data to PRC Citizen Employee

2016/08/09

By: Danielle McClellan

Microwave Engineering Corporation (Microwave) of Andover, MA has pled guilty to one charge of an unauthorized export of a defense article to a foreign person and will pay $100,000 to settle the matter. The company designs and manufactures high-power, broadband passive components, antennas, and waveguides for radio frequency microwave and communication systems. The majority of Microwave’s business comes from orders for custom-designed parts and providing research and development services. Microwave’s products are used in both military and commercial applications and are often integrated into other systems.

The company has submitted over 120 authorizations with DDTC since 2007 and maintained a Technology Control Plan (TCP) which was approved by the Defense Security Service. Between September 2009 and September 2011 Microwave employed a foreign person (citizen of the People’s Republic of China) as a Research Scientist. The employee did obtain an H-1B visa in conjunction with the employment. Microwave’s Export Control Officer explained to the employee’s supervisor that the employee “could only work on general research concepts and could not work on anything related to specific product design or production.” By May 2010 the employee was moved to a segregated work space.

While the employee was employed with Microwave the then president, Dr. Rudolf Cheung, and another engineer repeatedly provided the employee with ITAR-controlled technical data (USML Category XI(b))  without obtaining authorization. Between December 2009 and June 2010 the employee received technical data related to five research and manufacturing projects. Of the five projects, only one actually resulted in a purchase order and finally a developed component in November 2011. Authorization was never obtained from DDTC for this project and the transfer of ITAR-controlled technical data to the employee related to the project was a violation. The Export Control Officer for Microwave became aware of the transfer of technical data for the project in May 2010 and worked to limit the unauthorized transfers.

On January 20, 2012, Microwave disclosed to DDTC the illegal transfer of technical data which also happened to be the day that Dr. Cheung pled guilty to an unrelated criminal violation of the AECA. The Department of State released the following as mitigating factors in the charging letter:

  • Respondent’s submission of a voluntary disclosure under ITAR § 127.12
  • Acknowledging both the charged violation and other potential violations;
  • The exceptional cooperation of the company during the Department’s review of the disclosed conduct; and
  • The reduced likelihood of future violations due to demonstrated improvements in Respondent’s internal compliance program.

The Department also considered countervailing factors.  Most notably:

  • Deficiencies in Respondent’s export compliance program prior to the charged violation;
  • The involvement of a foreign person from the People’s Republic of China, a proscribed destination under ITAR § 126.1 and by statute (Suspension of Certain Programs and Activities, Pub. L. No. 101-246, title IX, § 902,104 Stat. 83 (1990) (amended 1992));
  • The amount of time between discovery of the issues and notification of the Department; and
  • The potential harm to national security.

Charging Letter: http://pmddtc.state.gov/compliance/consent_agreements/pdf/MEC-PCL.pdf

Consent Agreement: http://pmddtc.state.gov/compliance/consent_agreements/pdf/MEC_CA.pdf


CEO Sentenced to 7 years in Prison and Will Pay $1.1 Million

2016/04/06

By: Danielle McClellan

Founded in 1996, Valley Forge manufactured momentum wheels that were used in spacecraft. Between 2004 and 2008 the company’s revenues declined and the company moved into the direction of weapon detection systems found in airports and photonuclear detection systems used to find bio-chemical weapons and explosives on cargo ships beginning in 2009.

During this time, Louis Brothers was the CEO of Valley Forge and began selling nearly $37 million worth of semiconductors to China. He hid the transactions and concealed the profits from the sales which would later lead to 31 counts of conspiracy, aiding and abetting illegal exports of defense articles, and conspiracy to launder money. These charges were in violation of the US Arms Export Control Act and the violations occurred to boost Valley Forge’s business finances.

US Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that Valley Forge’s revenue grew from $132,000 in 2008 to $3.2 million in 2009 and finally peaked at $18.6 million in 2010. The large jump in revenue was explained to have come from the sale of aerospace products and other mechanical devices, including two orders worth a gross profit of $2 million…no sales to China were mentioned.

In 2013 the US Attorney’s Office seized $1.5 million in the company’s bank accounts and later explained to stockholders about the investigation. The stockholders did not deny any sales to Hong Kong, however they believed the transactions were legal. A year later, Louis Brothers and his wife were arrested and eventually released on a $500,000 bond related to the charges. At that time they both pleaded not guilty and denied all sales to China. A pending class-action lawsuit was also brought on by shareholders against them.

In late 2013 Valley Forge filed for bankruptcy with assets of $500,000-$1 million and debts in excess of $1-10 million.
Brothers entered into a guilty plea to seven of the 31 counts and will serve a total of 93 months in prison for selling military-grade microchips to Hong Kong. He will also forfeit $1.1 million in a monetary judgement. He could have faced 125 years in prison based on all charges. He admitted in the agreements that between 2009 and 2013 he intentionally avoided notifying the Department of State about the illegal exports and proceeded to label his shipments as “computer parts” in order to conceal the true identity of the items. Brothers also admitted that he falsified paper work to make it appear that the money he received from the sales of the illegal microchips were profits from another business that he personally owned in Kentucky.

Additional Details: http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2016/03/04/former-cincinnati-ceo-sentenced-to-7-years-in.html and https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-chief-executive-officer-sentenced-over-seven-years-prison-illegally-exporting