A criminal complaint was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court today charging Ming Suan Zhang with attempting to illegally export thousands of pounds of aerospace-grade carbon fiber from the United States to China.1 According to the complaint, Zhang was arrested in the United States after trying to negotiate a deal to acquire the specialized carbon fiber, a high-tech material used frequently in the military, defense and aerospace industries, and is therefore closely regulated by the United States Department of Commerce to combat nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Zhang is scheduled to make his initial appearance today at 2:00 p.m. at the United States Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York, before United States Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon.

The arrest and charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York; and Sidney Simon, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, New York Field Office.

The complaint alleges that Zhang came to the attention of federal authorities earlier this year after two Taiwanese accomplices attempted to locate large quantities of the specialized carbon fiber via remote Internet contacts. In July, Zhang told an accomplice: “When I place the order, I place one to two tons. However, the first shipment will be for 100 kg [kilograms].” Shortly thereafter, Zhang contacted an undercover law enforcement agent in an effort to finalize the deal to export the carbon fiber from New York to China. In one recorded conversation, Zhang stated that he had an urgent need for the carbon fiber in connection with the scheduled test flight of a Chinese fighter plane. Zhang then arranged a meeting with an undercover agent to take possession of a carbon fiber sample, which was to be shipped to China and analyzed to verify its authenticity. Zhang was subsequently placed under arrest.

The regulation of carbon fiber falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, which reviews and controls the export of certain goods and technology from the United States to foreign countries. In particular, the Commerce Department has placed restrictions on the export of goods and technology that it has determined could make a significant contribution to the military potential or nuclear proliferation of other nations, or that could be detrimental to the foreign policy or national security of the United States.

Carbon fiber composites of the type allegedly pursued by Zhang and his accomplices are ideally suited to applications where strength, stiffness, lower weight, and outstanding fatigue characteristics are critical requirements. These composites also can be used in applications where high temperature, chemical inertness and high damping are important. The two main applications of carbon fiber are in specialized technology, particularly in the fields of aerospace and nuclear engineering, and in general engineering and transportation. In addition, certain carbon fiber-based composites, such as the material sought by the defendant, are used in military aircraft.

If convicted of the charges in the complaint, Zhang faces up to 20 years in prison.

“The defendant allegedly tried to break laws that protect our national security by preventing specialized technologies from falling into the wrong hands,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “We will use every tool at our disposal to protect the homeland and give teeth to the laws that maintain our technological superiority on the battlefield and in the skies.” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the DOC and HSI, which worked closely together to investigate the case and bring the defendant to face charges, and noted that the government’s investigation is ongoing.

“Zhang allegedly tried to circumvent U.S. export laws to sell technology vital to our nation’s defense. This technology in the wrong hands poses a serious threat to our national security,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes. “HSI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to safeguard our sensitive technology from those who can potentially use it against us.”

“This arrest demonstrates our resolve to investigate and arrest those who violate U.S. criminal laws. We are proud to work with our law enforcement partners in protecting national security and leveling the playing field for legitimate commerce,” stated DOC Special Agent-in-Charge Simon.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth DuCharme and David Sarratt, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Recker of the Department of Justice Counterespionage Section. Assistance was also provided by Trial Attorney Dan E. Stigall of the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.

The Defendant:

Age: 40


1 The charges contained in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.