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Description: San Diego, California criminal law lawyer represented Defendant charged with acting as an agent of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and accepting thousands of dollars from representatives of the Chinese government to provide aviation-related information from his defense-contractor employers.
Shapour Moinian, age 27, from San Diego served in the U.S. Army in the United States, Germany and South Korea from approximately 1977 through 2000. After his service, Moinian worked for various cleared defense contractors in the United States – including in San Diego - as well as the Department of Defense. “Cleared” is a term that indicates a contractor is permitted to work on projects that involve classified information.
According to his plea agreement, while Moinian was working for a cleared defense contractor, or CDC, on various aviation projects used by the military and U.S. intelligence agencies, he was contacted by an individual in China who claimed to be working for a technical recruiting company. This person offered Moinian the opportunity to consult for the aviation industry in China.
In March 2017, Moinian travelled to Hong Kong where he met with this purported recruiter and agreed to provide information and materials related to multiple types of aircraft designed and/or manufactured in the United States in exchange for money. Moinian accepted approximately $7,000-$10,000 in U.S. currency during that meeting. According to his plea agreement, at this meeting and at all subsequent meetings, Moinian knew that these individuals were employed or directed by the PRC.
Upon returning to the United States, Moinian began gathering aviation-related materials, which included transferring material from a CDC to a thumb drive. In September 2017, Moinian traveled overseas and, during a stopover at the Shanghai airport, met with Chinese government officials and provided aviation-related materials on a thumb drive, including proprietary information from a CDC. Thereafter, Moinian arranged to be paid for this information through the South Korean bank account of his stepdaughter. Moinian told his stepdaughter that these funds were payment for his consulting work overseas and instructed her to transfer the funds to him in multiple transactions.
Moinian also received a cell phone and other equipment from these individuals to communicate with them and aid in the electronic transfer of materials and information.
At the end of March 2018, Moinian traveled to Bali and met with these same individuals again. Later that year, he began working at another CDC. During this timeframe, the same individuals in China transferred thousands of dollars into the South Korean bank account of Moinian’s stepdaughter, who subsequently wired the funds to Moinian in multiple transactions.
In August 2019, Moinian traveled again to Hong Kong and met with these same individuals where he was again paid approximately $22,000 in cash for his services. Moinian and his wife smuggled this cash back into the United States.
According to his plea agreement, Moinian also admitted that he lied on his government background questionnaires in July 2017 and March 2020, when he falsely stated that did not have any close or continuing contacts with foreign nationals and that no foreign national had offered him a job.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California and Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s of the Counterintelligence Division made the announcement.
The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fred Sheppard and John Parmley for the Southern District of California and Trial Attorney Menno Goedman of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted the case.
18:1001- False Statement
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully-
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.
(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial proceeding, or that party's counsel, for statements, representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.
(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to-
(1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a matter related to the procurement of property or services, personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch; or
(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.
18:951 Acting as an Agent of a Foreign Government
(a) Whoever, other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attaché, acts in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General if required in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
(b) The Attorney General shall promulgate rules and regulations establishing requirements for notification.
(c) The Attorney General shall, upon receipt, promptly transmit one copy of each notification statement filed under this section to the Secretary of State for such comment and use as the Secretary of State may determine to be appropriate from the point of view of the foreign relations of the United States. Failure of the Attorney General to do so shall not be a bar to prosecution under this section.
(d) For purposes of this section, the term “agent of a foreign government” means an individual who agrees to operate within the United States subject to the direction or control of a foreign government or official, except that such term does not include—
(1) a duly accredited diplomatic or consular officer of a foreign government, who is so recognized by the Department of State;
(2) any officially and publicly acknowledged and sponsored official or representative of a foreign government;
(3) any officially and publicly acknowledged and sponsored member of the staff of, or employee of, an officer, official, or representative described in paragraph (1) or (2), who is not a United States citizen; or
(4) any person engaged in a legal commercial transaction.
(e) Notwithstanding paragraph (d)(4), any person engaged in a legal commercial transaction shall be considered to be an agent of a foreign government for purposes of this section if—
(1) such person agrees to operate within the United States subject to the direction or control of a foreign government or official; and
(2) such person—
(A) is an agent of Cuba or any other country that the President determines (and so reports to the Congress) poses a threat to the national security interest of the United States for purposes of this section, unless the Attorney General, after consultation with the Secretary of State, determines and so reports to the Congress that the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States require that the provisions of this section do not apply in specific circumstances to agents of such country; or
(B) has been convicted of, or has entered a plea of nolo contendere with respect to, any offense under section 792 through 799, 831, or 2381 of this title or under section 11  of the Export Administration Act of 1979, except that the provisions of this subsection shall not apply to a person described in this clause for a period of more than five years beginning on the date of the conviction or the date of entry of the plea of nolo contendere, as the case may be.
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 20 months in prison.