By James Vicini, Reuters
WASHINGTON — A U.S. citizen born in Taiwan pleaded guilty on Tuesday to passing national defense secrets to China for about US$50,000, the Justice Department said.
It said Tai Shen Kuo, 58, a New Orleans businessman arrested in February, admitted his guilt in federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia. He faces up to life in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Aug. 8.
According to court documents, the conspiracy took place from March 2007 until this February. Kuo obtained the secret information, mainly involving U.S. military sales to Taiwan and U.S. military communications security, from Gregg Bergersen, who was a U.S. Defense Department analyst.
Kuo cultivated a friendship with Bergersen, a weapons system policy analyst with a top-secret clearance, giving him gifts, cash, dinners and trips to places such as Las Vegas, prosecutors said.
They said Kuo also led Bergersen to believe he would make him a part owner or an employee of a company selling U.S. defense technology to Taiwan after Bergersen retired.
Bergersen was unaware that Kuo passed along the information to an unidentified Chinese government official, prosecutors said. The official directed Kuo to get specific documents and paid him about US$50,000 for completing those tasks.
Bergersen, who pleaded guilty in March, faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing scheduled for July 11.
A third person, Yu Xin Kang of New Orleans, accused of acting as an intermediary between Kuo and a Chinese official, still faces charges in the case.
“By providing classified information to a foreign government, Tai Shen Kuo compromised our national security for his own profit,” FBI Executive Assistant Director Arthur Cummings said in a statement.