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Chinese-born man charged in plot to steal US nuclear tech secrets

Authorities allege that Chenguang Gong stole thousands of documents and blueprints containing information on sophisticated military technology.
A sign marks an entrance to the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building.
Posted at 2:29 PM, Feb 08, 2024

Federal authorities say a Chinese-born man living in California has been arrested for plotting to steal U.S. nuclear technology secrets and provide them to China.

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that 57-year-old Chenguang Gong of San Jose, California, was arrested and charged for allegedly plotting to steal thousands of blueprints related to U.S. nuclear missile detection sensors. The Chinese native and former engineer has been a U.S. citizen since 2011.

Authorities claim Gong transferred more than 3,600 documents from a Los-Angeles area research company where he worked last year to personal storage devices. The files he stole allegedly contained blueprints for sophisticated military technology that allows U.S. space-based systems to detect missile threats.

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"Mr. Gong, who had previously sought to provide the People’s Republic of China with information to aid its military, stole sensitive and confidential information related to detecting nuclear missile launches and tracking ballistic and hypersonic missiles," U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. "We know that foreign actors, including the PRC, are actively seeking to steal our technology, but we will remain vigilant against this threat by safeguarding the innovations of American businesses and researchers." 

An affidavit claims that between 2014 and 2022 Gong also applied for several "Talent Programs" jobs administered by the PRC, all while he was employed at various major technology companies in the U.S. Court documents allege that in one of those applications, Gong proposed to help a Chinese research institute produce sophisticated "high-performance analog-to-digital converters" similar to those his employer was developing. 

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The DOJ notes that many of the documents Gong stole were labeled " [victim company] proprietary," "for official use only," "proprietary information" or "export controlled." If convicted, Gong faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

"The theft of trade secrets, especially of sensitive military technology, undermines our national security, erodes U.S. competitiveness in the global market, and harms the businesses and individuals who have invested time, resources, and creativity into developing innovative technologies," said Donald Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. "Our actions today send a strong message that anyone willing to steal proprietary information from U.S. businesses will face consequences in the criminal justice system."