LOS ANGELES – Two men were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday after they tried to board a plane to China with sensitive infrared cameras in their luggage, a federal official said.
Yong Guo Zhi, a Chinese national, and Tah Wei Chao, a naturalized U.S. citizen, were stopped by federal agents on the jetway as they were preparing to board the flight to Beijing, said Rick Weir, assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles office of the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security.
The men, who had been in the United States for about a week, were arrested for investigation of trying to take thermal imaging cameras with potential military use to China without the proper export licenses, Weir said.
Julie Salcido, a supervising agent with the Bureau of Industry and Security, said one of the men purchased the cameras, assuring the seller repeatedly that they were only for domestic use.
"He repeatedly said he wouldn't export," she said.
Ten of the cameras, which measure about 2 inches square and cost about $5,000 each, were found in the men's checked luggage, Weir said. Salcido said it appeared they split the shipment up between them.
The cameras have both commercial and military uses but they are "very expensive, highly sensitive," Weir said. "They're not something you could buy off the shelf."
The men were taken to the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center and could not immediately be reached for comment.