Two men have been charged with attempting to take ten thermal-imaging cameras from Los Angeles to the People’s Republic of China without obtaining the necessary licenses.

Tah Wei Chao, 52, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Zhi Yong Guo, 49, a Chinese national, were arrested Saturday, April 5th, while they were preparing to board a plane at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The two men, who both live in Beijing, were named in a criminal complaint filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles Monday, April 7th.

The complaint accuses the men of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and Export Administration Regulations by knowingly exporting and attempting to export restricted items without a license, U.S. Attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Chao purchased three thermal imaging cameras last fall, and investigators believe that he arranged to have the export-controlled devices shipped to China, Mrozek said. The thermal imaging cameras, which have potential military use, can be used to observe things not otherwise visible to the naked eye and are export-controlled for national security, nuclear proliferation and regional stability reasons, Mrozek said.

Chao allegedly ordered ten more cameras from FLIR Systems, Inc. last month for $53,000. Representatives from FLIR Systems warned Chao that the cameras could not be moved outside the United States without an export license issued by the Department of Commerce, Mrozek said.

Chao and Guo were scheduled to make their initial court appearances April 7th in federal court in Los Angeles.

The charge in the complaint carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

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