SAN FRANCISCO — The United States Attorney’s Office today unsealed a criminal complaint charging Jonathan Yet Wing Soong with smuggling and violating export control laws by secretly shipping sensitive aircraft software to a Peking University, a announced US Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds; Sean Ragan, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement (BIS), Special Agent in Charge John D. Masters; Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Bryan D. Denny. Soong made his first appearance to face the charges in federal court earlier today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero.
The allegations against Soong, 34, of San Jose, were set out in a lawsuit filed May 23, 2022 and unsealed earlier in the day. According to the complaint, Soong was employed by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) between April 2016 and September 2020 as a program administrator. The USRA is a nonprofit corporation contracted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to, among other things, distribute sensitive aeronautics-related software domestically and internationally developed under the software transfer (STA) from the army. As USRA’s STA Program Administrator, Soong was responsible for overseeing certain software license sales, verifying export customer compliance, generating software licenses and, occasion, the physical export of software.
Soong was reportedly trained and aware of export compliance rules which, among other things, restrict sales and exports to certain entities. In relation to this matter, the complaint outlines rules that restrict sales of certain technologies to entities on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List (Entity List), a list with associated regulations that are maintained by the Department. of commerce in accordance with Federal and Presidential laws. directive. The Entity List and associated regulations prohibit the unlicensed export of certain technologies with potential commercial and military applications to entities and individuals whose activities have been determined to be contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of states. -United. The complaint alleges that Soong illegally and without a license exported and facilitated the sale and transfer of software to an entity on the Entity List – Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA), also known as ‘Beihang University. According to the complaint, Beihang University was added to the Entity List due to the university’s involvement in the People’s Republic of China’s military rocket systems and unmanned aerial vehicle systems. Given its listing on the Entity List, BUAA is prohibited from receiving certain unlicensed items. The complaint alleges that Soong used an intermediary in the hope that the illegal transfer would go undetected.
In this case, it is a software package marketed for the development of unmanned aircraft. The Army flight control software packages, referred to in the complaint as CIFER, functioned as a tool for a user to develop a dynamic model of an aircraft based on collective flight test data. The software package could be used to analyze and design aircraft control systems. According to the complaint, in April 2017, Soong learned that BUAA was on the Entity List and nevertheless arranged to sell and transfer the CIFER software package to BUAA. Soong eventually exported directly to Beihang University in July 2018. The complaint alleges that Soong arranged to sell the CIFER software package to Beijing Rainbow Technical Development Ltd., acting as an intermediary for the purchase in order to disguise the involvement of BUAA, as Soong knew that BUAA could not receive this technology without a license from the Ministry of Commerce. The complaint describes how Soong arranged for the intermediary to receive the CIFER program package, and ultimately Soong arranged for the CIFER software package access codes to be forwarded to Beihang University with payment from of Beijing Rainbow.
A criminal complaint simply alleges that crimes have been committed. All defendants, including Soong, are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Soong is charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), in violation of 50 USC §§ 1701–1707, and smuggling, in violation of 18 USC § 554. Violation of the IEEPA is punishable by maximum legal sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000. The smuggling charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, as part of any sentence given after conviction, the court can order restitution and up to three years of supervised release. However, any post-conviction sentence would only be imposed by the court after review of the US Sentencing Guidelines and the federal law governing sentencing, 18 USC § 3553.
Soong’s next scheduled court appearance is set for June 2, 2022, before U.S. Magistrate Judge, the Honorable Laurel Beeler.
Assistant United States Attorney Barbara Valliere of the United States Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Section is pursuing the case with help from Maddi Wachs and Kathy Tat. The charge is the result of an investigation by BIS, DCIS, and the FBI with assistance from NASA’s Office of Inspector General; U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division; US Army counterintelligence; and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.