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Originally published March 24, 2011 at 2:01 PM | Page modified March 25, 2011 at 6:07 AM

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Woodinville man pleads guilty to attempted sale of banned technology to China

A 47-year-old Woodinville man pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiring to sell sensitive "radiation-hardened" military and aerospace technology to China.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A 47-year-old Woodinville man pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act by trying to sell sensitive "radiation-hardened" military and aerospace technology to China.

Federal prosecutors said Lian Yang tried to export 300 semiconductors the U.S. government has said have no purpose outside military or aerospace use. They suspect the parts were for use in China's "next-Gen spaceship program."

Yang appeared briefly Thursday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler, who set sentencing for June 30 before U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly. Yang will remain free on personal recognizance. He declined to comment after the hearing.

Yang was arrested in December after he offered to purchase the radiation-hardened semiconductors used by the military in satellites for $700,000 from undercover FBI agents.

Yang and unnamed "co-conspirators" deposited a $60,000 down payment in an account set up by the agents, the complaint says.

He was arrested in a sting operation as he was dropping off a $20,000 payment.

Yang came to the FBI's attention when a businessman approached the agency last March after being introduced to Yang by a mutual friend. The businessman, who went on to work as a confidential source, told agents Yang had said he had "old school friends" in China who make money importing electronic components from the United States, the complaint says.

The charges say Yang was employed as a consultant at Microsoft and sometimes traveled to China as a recruiter.

According to the documents, Yang traveled to the People's Republic of China on July 22 and returned July 31. He was stopped and interviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents, who found documents pertaining to electronics parts in his briefcase, including some referencing items banned by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

When first interviewed, Yang said he was a consultant for Microsoft who was recruiting in China. After agents found 10 small "LCD display units" in his computer case, Yang said he had been in China to sell the units and was returning some that were defective.

Yang was warned about the need to follow U.S. export laws and released.

He related the episode to the confidential source but continued his efforts to obtain the banned parts and get them to China, the charges say.

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He told the source at a later meeting that he and his partners had purchased similar parts from Russia in the past, but that they had "quality-control issues."

Eventually, the source introduced Yang to "contacts" in the industry — a pair of undercover FBI agents, posing as exporters.

The complaint says the agents told Yang repeatedly that what they were doing was illegal.

At Thursday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods said the undercover agents offered to sell Yang a nonrestricted version of the microprocessors, but Yang said only the prohibited version would do.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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