Minneapolis FBI helped bust company sending controlled tech to China

A Chinese national orchestrated the illegal shipment of controlled tech from the U.S. to China over a period of three years.


The Minneapolis FBI office helped uncover and bring to justice a scheme by which China illegally acquired U.S. technology.

An indictment was unsealed this week which charged 45-year-old Chinese national Cheng Bo (AKA Joe Cheng) with violating U.S. export laws to illegally ship controlled power amplifiers to China. The power amplifiers in question have potential military applications, according to Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the National Security Division.

“What China cannot develop itself, it acquires illegally through others,” Demers added in a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release. “This is yet another example of a proxy acting to further China’s malign interests.”

Cheng served as a sales account manager with Avnet Asia Pte. Ltc., a Singapore company, where he routinely submitted falsified paperwork between 2012 and 2015, which misrepresented the destination of power amplifiers as Hong Kong. While they did arrive in Hong Kong, their final destination was China, which Cheng knew all along, reports the DOJ.

The total value of the illegally-exported amplifiers was at least $814,000, and reached China via 18 shipments that were improperly routed to the People’s Republic via Hong Kong.

Cheng no longer works for Avnet, but the company has agreed to pay over $3.2 million as part of a non-prosecution agreement in relation to the illegal exports. If Cheng were to be prosecuted, he would face up to 20 years in prison, per the DOJ.

“The settlement with Avnet Asia announced today represents years of hard work on one of the FBI’s highest priorities — stopping the illegal export of U.S. technology to China,” said said Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, per the DOJ.

“Global corporations have a responsibility to follow U.S. law when selling American technology,” Paul added. “Criminal and civil penalties await companies and individuals who fail to adhere to laws protecting sensitive U.S. technologies.”