The Justice Department announced on Tuesday five criminal cases against people accused of stealing or illegally diverting American technology and materials for the Russian, Chinese and Iranian governments.
The cases are the first enforcement actions by the department’s Disruptive Technology Strike Force, which aims to counter efforts by “hostile nation-states” to illegally acquire sensitive US technology “to advance their authoritarian regimes and facilitate human rights abuses.”
Four arrests were made, but some defendants remain at large, according to the Justice Department.
In one case, prosecutors said a Chinese citizen and former Apple Inc. engineer, who has been charged in northern California, allegedly stole “thousands of documents containing the source code for software and hardware pertaining to Apple’s autonomous vehicle technology.” The defendant, Weibao Wang, is now believed to be working for a China-based autonomous vehicle competitor.
CNN has reached out to Apple for comment.
In another case, prosecutors in New York charged a Chinese national with allegedly participating in a scheme to use a sanctioned Chinese company to provide materials used in the production of weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs, to Iran. The man, Xiangjiang Qiao, is at large in China, according to the Justice Department.
According to prosecutors, Qiao helped to supply isostatic graphite to Iran, a compound that is used in the manufacture of rocket nozzles and reentry vehicle nose tips in intercontinental ballistic missiles. Qiao also allegedly helped conceal the identity of the China-based company he was working for by opening a US bank account under the name of a front company to receive payments for the isostatic graphite.
“These charges demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to preventing sensitive technology from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries, including Russia, China, and Iran,” said Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s national security division.
“We will not tolerate those who would violate U.S. laws to allow authoritarian regimes and other hostile nations to use advanced technology to threaten U.S. national security and undermine democratic values around the world,” Olsen added.
In another case in central California, prosecutors said Liming Li, a senior software engineer, was arrested earlier this month, accused of theft of trade secrets for allegedly stealing source code used in software for “smart” automotive manufacturing equipment.
In New York, a Greek national is charged with allegedly acquiring more than 10 different types of sensitive technologies on behalf of the Russian government. The man, Dr. Nikolaos “Nikos” Bogonikolos, was arrested in Paris last week and the US will move for his extradition, the Justice Department said. He is charged with fraud conspiracy and smuggling.
And in Arizona, two Russia nationals were arrested this month in connection with a “procurement scheme to supply multiple Russian commercial airline companies – which were subject to bans from engaging in certain type of commercial transactions – with export-controlled parts and components, including braking technology,” according to DOJ.
The two Russians, Oleg Sergeyevich Patsulya and Vasilii Sergeyevich Besedin, face charges for conspiracy to violate the Export Control Reform Act and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
This story has been updated with additional details.