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US Navy officer found guilty of secretly buying guns for Chinese military contractor

U.S. Navy Lt. Fan Yang, left, explains systems in the P-8A Poseidon aircraft. (Steve Patterson/ Florida Times-Union/TNS)
November 16, 2021

A U.S. Navy officer was found guilty on Monday of firearms charges and hiding his ties to a Chinese arms dealer.

On Monday, the Department of Justice announced Lt. Fan Yang, 36, was found guilty of conspiring with his wife and a Chinese businessman to violate U.S. firearms laws, make false written statements to federally licensed firearms dealers, and make false statements about his ties with the Chinese businessman during a security clearance background investigation.

Yang was a Naval Flight Officer trained in anti-submarine warfare who flew on Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft. Yang had a top-secret security clearance as part of his military duties.

According to evidence presented during his trial, prior to becoming a commissioned officer, Yang formed a relationship with the Chinese businessman, Ge Songtao, who was the chairman of Shanghai Breeze Technology Co. Ltd. The company, based out of Shanghai, purchased maritime equipment designed for law enforcement and the military from the U.S. and exported it to China.

In 2016, while Yang was stationed in Jacksonville, he recommended that Ge hire his wife Yang Yang as an employee of Shanghai Breeze. During her time working for Shanghai Breeze, she received more than $300,000 to cover her salary, the company’s expenses in the U.S. and for purchasing goods at Ge’s direction. Some of the funds were routed through Yang’s family business, BQ Tree LLC.

In 2017 and in 2018, Yang purchased a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol and a Glock 9mm pistol on Ge’s behalf. In each case, Yang filed Firearms Transactions Records (ATF Form-4473) on which he falsely indicated he was purchasing the firearms for himself and not Ge.

Ge was also charged with conspiring to submit false export information through the federal government’s Automated Export System and attempting to export special forces maritime raiding craft and engines to China. Ge plead guilty to the charge in November 2020. During his case, Ge’s attorney admitted Ge planned to “reverse-engineer” the equipment and then “use it in a bid to the Chinese Navy.”

In January 2019, while Yang worked as an instructor at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School in Jacksonville, Florida, he completed a security clearance questionnaire in order to renew his top-secret security clearance. That questionnaire required that Yang disclose any close or continuing contacts with foreign nationals. Yang did not disclose the extent of his contacts with Ge, hid that he had maintained a bank account in China, sometimes worked for his family business, BQ Tree LLC, and possessed an expired Chinese passport.

With the convictions, Yang faces up to 30 years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 16, 2022.