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Army vet helo pilot admits selling defense info to China; gets prison

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
November 08, 2022

A veteran who flew helicopters for the U.S. Army who admitted to accepting tens of thousands of dollars to give aviation-related information to China. sentenced to just under two years in prison on

Shapour Moinian, 67, plead guilty in June to illegally acting as an agent of China, and taking money from members of the Chinese government to provide aviation information. He also admitted lying about his Chinese government contacts during a national security background check process. Moinian was sentenced on Monday to 20 months in prison for his actions.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Moinian served in the Army from 1977 to 2000. During that time, he served through the U.S. as well as in Germany and South Korea.

After his 23 years of military service, Moinian went on to work for a number of different defense contractors. Beginning in 2017, as he worked for one defense contractor, Moinian received a message from an individual in China who claimed to workg for a technical recruiting company. The individual offered Moinian an opportunity to consult for the aviation industry in China.

Moinian traveled to Hong Kong in March of 2017 and met with the individual. During this meeting, Moinian agreed to provide information and materials related to multiple aircraft designed or manufactured in the U.S.

At this initial meeting, Moinian accepted between $7,000 and $10,000 in U.S. Dollars in exchange for this information. According to his plea agreement, Moinian understood from this first meeting onward that he was working with individuals employed or following the directives of the Chinese government, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

In September of 2017, Moinian traveled overseas yet again, including a stopover in Shanghai, China. During this stopover, Moinian provided a thumb-drive with information taken from a defense contractor, including some of the contractor’s proprietary information.

From this point onward, Moinian also arranged to have money transfers go through his his stepdaughter’s South Korean bank account. Moinian told his stepdaughter these funds transfers were part of his normal consulting work and he instructed her to forward those payments along to him in multiple transactions.

By March of 2018, Moinian had traveled to Bali to meet with these Chinese government agents yet again. Later that same year, Moinian began working at a news defense contractor. It was around this timeframe that the Chinese government agents transferred thousands more dollars into his stepdaughter’s South Korean bank account.

In August 2019, Moinian once again traveled to Hong Kong and met with these same Chinese government agents. Moinian’s Chinese government contacts paid him about $22,000 more in cash for his work. Moinian and his wife smuggled this cash back into the United States.

Moinian ultimately plead guilty to working for the Chinese government, admitting to the interactions with Chinese agents. As the Times of San Diego reported, Moinian’s attorney did argue that none of the information he gave to China was classified, but stipulated that some of the information was proprietary.

As part of his plea deal, Moinian also admitted to lying on background check questionnaires in July of 2017 and March of 2020, claiming he did not have close or continuing contacts with foreign nationals and that no foreign national had offered him a job.

Moinian’s sentencing comes after the United Kingdom reported China had recruited around 30 former military pilots to help train Chinese military pilots.

Last month, the Department of Justice announced it had charged two Chinese agents attempting to bribe a U.S. official for information on a criminal case against a Chinese-owned telecommunications company. Rather than work for the Chinese side, the U.S. official became a double agent, allowing the Chinese agents to pay him $41,000 in Bitcoin for what they believed was a legitimate secret document detailing plans to arrest two of the company’s employees in China.