A Chinese national who initially came to the United States to study electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2013 and eventually enlisted in the US Army Reserves has been sentenced to eight years in prison for spying.

He was identified as Ji Chaoqun, a former graduate student in Chicago. He was sentenced on Wednesday, Jan. 25, for reportedly spying for the Chinese government, gathering information from engineers and scientists in the US.

Ji was arrested in 2018 and convicted on September 2022. This was after he was found acting illegally as an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) and making a materially false statement to the US Army, CNN reported.

It was bared by the Justice Department that the 31-year-old was given the task of providing an intelligence officer with biographical information on individuals for potential recruitment as Chinese spies.

Among those individuals includes Chinese nationals who worked as engineers and scientists in the US. Some also reportedly worked with American defense contractors.

The Justice Department added that Ji’s exploits were part of an effort by Chinese intelligence to obtain access to advanced aerospace and satellite technologies being developed by US companies.

When he enlisted in the army in 2016, Ji falsely stated that he had not had any contact with a foreign government within the past seven years. Aside from that, the Chinese national also failed to disclose his relationship and contacts with Chinese intelligence officers in a subsequent interview with a US Army officer, the Justice Department added.

Further, Ji intended to perform cybersecurity work at one of those agencies so that he would have access to databases, including those that contained scientific research.

He was reportedly under the direction of Xu Yanjun, a deputy division director at the Jiangsu provincial branch of the MMS. Xu was sentenced to 20 years in prison for plotting to steal trade secrets from several US aviation and aerospace companies. He was the first Chinese spy extradited to the US for trial after he was detained in Belgium in 2018.

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