FBI’s Minneapolis office assists in criminal conspiracy investigation involving illegal exports to China

The FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office assisted in an investigation that led to charging a 45-year-old man with participating in a criminal conspiracy that involved violating United States export laws by shipping U.S. power amplifiers to China.

According to officials, Cheng Bo, also known as Joe Cheng, was charged after operating as a sales representative and submitting paperwork to purchase export-controlled U.S. goods, including power amplifiers. Cheng then made false statements to the U.S. manufacturer of the power amplifiers that the amplifiers would be used in Hong Kong when Cheng knew they would be shipped illegally from Hong Kong to China.

Cheng’s former employer—Avnet Asia Pte. Ltd.—admitted that from 2012-2015, Cheng oversaw at least 18 individual shipments of export-controlled goods from the U.S. to Hong Kong to China. The value of those illegal exports was at least $814,000, according to officials.

Meanwhile, Avnet Asia also admitted that another Singapore-based sales account manager conspired to violate U.S. export control laws and economic sanctions from 2007-2009 by aiding in at least 29 shipments of U.S. goods to Iran and China. The value of those illegal exports was at least $347,000, officials stated.

Avnet Asia agreed to pay a penalty of more than $1.5 million to settle criminal liability for the conduct of its former employees as well as an additional $1.7 million as part of a more than $3 million administrative penalty.

If convicted, Cheng would face up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to twice the value of the property involved in the illegal transactions.

"The indictment unsealed today serves as a warning to those who violate export control laws designed to protect our national and economic security," Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, said in a statement. "The settlement with Avnet Asia announced today represents years of hard work on one of the FBI’s highest priorities – stopping the illegal export of U.S. technology to China. Regardless of their location, global corporations have a responsibility to follow U.S. law when selling American technology. Criminal and civil penalties await companies and individuals who fail to adhere to laws protecting sensitive U.S. technologies."

In addition to the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, the DOC-OEE’s Chicago Field Office and HSI Los Angeles investigated the case.