McLEAN, Va. – A New Orleans furniture salesman pleaded guilty Tuesday to spying for the Chinese government and providing Beijing with secret information on U.S.-Taiwan military relations.
Tai Shen Kuo, 58, a Taiwan native and naturalized U.S. citizen, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 8.
Kuo's lawyers, Plato Cacheris and John Hundley, said after the hearing they believe their client would face a prison term of about 12 1/2 to 15 1/2 years under federal sentencing guidelines.
Kuo pleaded guilty to a single count of espionage in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. In court papers, Kuo admitted that he received $50,000 from the Chinese government for his efforts.
Kuo obtained classified information throughout 2007 from a Defense Department analyst, Gregg W. Bergersen, by providing several thousand dollars in gambling money to Bergersen on trips the pair took to Las Vegas, as well as promises of future employment at a company Kuo hoped to establish.
Bergersen has already pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced.
The information Kuo obtained from Bergersen included updates on Taiwan's new Po Sheng or "Broad Victory" air defense system, which is a key part of Taiwan's defenses against a possible attack by China.
Taiwanese military officials have said the disclosures caused some damage but did not compromise key technology.
Kuo also received projections of U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan over the next five years.
Kuo has prominent family connections in Taiwan — he is the son-in-law of Xue Yue, a Chinese nationalist general who was a close associate of the late dictator Chiang Kai-shek. Indeed, Bergersen thought Kuo was aligned with Taiwan's defense ministry and was unaware of Kuo's contacts with the People's Republic of China.
A third person charged in the case, Chinese national Yu Xin Kang, who allegedly acted as a go-between for Kuo and Chinese agents, is in jail awaiting trial.
Kuo's guilty plea "is the latest demonstration of the serious threat posed by international espionage networks," said Patrick Rowan, acting assistant attorney general for national security.
The case is one of several that have recently involved Chinese espionage or illegal sales of sensitive technology to China.
In February, former Boeing Co. engineer Dongfan "Greg" Chung was arrested and charged in Los Angeles with stealing military and aerospace trade secrets regarding the space shuttle and other programs on China's behalf.
In 2006, former Pentagon intelligence analyst Ronald N. Montaperto was sentenced in Alexandria to three months in jail for unlawful retention of classified documents after admitting he had contacts with two Chinese intelligence officers from as early as 1983 and as recently as 2001.
And in March, a Reston-based technology company, WaveLab Inc. pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria to illegally selling technology with potential military applications to China.