Two men who were arrested last year at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) while trying to board an international flight with ten thermal-imaging cameras in their luggage have been sentenced to federal prison for attempting to transport sensitive and advanced U.S. technology to the People’s Republic of China, authorities said.

Tah Wei Chao, 53, of Beijing, was sentenced August 3rd to 20 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to attempting to smuggle ten highly sensitive and advanced thermal-imaging cameras to China, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Co-defendant Zhi Yong Guo, 50, also of Beijing, was sentenced on July 27th to five years in federal prison for his involvement in the thermal-imaging cameras scheme, according to the FBI.

Both defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter. The defendants were charged under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) for procuring and illegal exporting sensitive technology in violation of United States export laws, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman said.

Chao and Guo were arrested at LAX on April 4th, 2008 while attempting to board an international flight to China with thermal-imaging cameras. The cameras, which were manufactured by FLIR Systems, Inc. and cost more than $5,000 each, were stuffed inside the defendants’ shoes and concealed in their clothes, according to the FBI.

The cameras, which are contained in two-inch cubes, are so sensitive that they can perceive a heat source on an object that is not visible to the naked human eye and they can perceive the residual heat source image on an object long after the heat source has been removed, the FBI said. These cameras, according to the manufacturer, have a wide range of military, law enforcement and civilian applications.

Chao and Guo were indicted on federal charges on April 18th, 2008. Ten days later, Chao pleaded guilty to three federal counts. In February, following a one-week jury trial, Guo was convicted of two federal counts.

The case was investigated by the Export and Anti-proliferation Global Law Enforcement (EAGLE) Task Force, created by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, in conjunction with federal law enforcement agencies, to jointly investigate and combat the illegal exports of arms and sensitive technologies.

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