The Justice Department disclosed on Wednesday the arrest of a California individual linked to China, accused of engaging in a scheme to pilfer blueprints of nuclear missile launch sensors devised for the United States government.
According to court documents cited by USA TODAY, Chenguang Gong purportedly absconded with files containing trade secrets pertaining to technology utilized in detecting nuclear missile launches, as well as monitoring ballistic and hypersonic missiles.
These materials are deemed potentially perilous to US national security if accessed by foreign entities.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Igor Neyman revealed in an affidavit filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California that Gong allegedly transferred files onto three storage devices, of which two remain unaccounted for.
US attorney Martin Estrada highlighted Gong’s prior endeavors to furnish China with intelligence supportive of its military ambitions.
Estrada stressed the imperative of safeguarding American innovations against foreign exploitation, particularly emphasizing the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) aggressive pursuit of technological advancements.
Gong commenced employment at a Malibu-based company in January 2023, tasked with developing technology integral to detecting and tracking nuclear missile launches for the Department of Defense and other US government contractors, Neyman outlined in his affidavit.
Between March and April 2023, Gong purportedly exfiltrated over 3,600 files from his work laptop onto personal storage devices, including trade secrets related to military technology.
Neyman underscored the significance of these files, highlighting their potential economic and national security ramifications if disclosed to competitors or foreign actors.
Gong’s Employment Shift and FBI Search
Despite Gong’s ongoing clandestine file transfers, he accepted a position at a rival company in early April. Subsequently, upon discovering a flash drive linked to unauthorized data transfers, Gong’s former employer terminated his employment, as per Neyman’s affidavit.
The FBI executed a search warrant at Gong’s residence in Thousand Oaks, California, seven days after his employment at the competitor company commenced.
Although some of the pilfered files were retrieved, two hard drives allegedly used by Gong to store sensitive information remain elusive.
The affidavit also revealed Gong’s involvement in various Chinese government talent programs aimed at soliciting individuals with specialized skills and knowledge beneficial to China’s economic and military pursuits.
Gong allegedly proposed projects mirroring his work for US companies, emphasizing their potential utility to China’s military.
Donald Alway, assistant director in charge of the FBI Los Angeles field office, emphasized the severity of trade secret theft, particularly in the realm of sensitive military technology.
Alway stressed that such actions not only undermine national security but also jeopardize US competitiveness in the global market.
In a statement of the FBI’s determination to hold criminals responsible through the criminal justice system, Alway consistently affirmed the agency’s commitment to pursuing those involved in the theft of confidential information from American firms.