| Florida Times-Union
Federal prosecutors “have reached an agreement in principle” to settle smuggling charges against a Chinese corporate executive accused of conspiring with a Jacksonville Navy officer and his wife, court records show.
If that agreement becomes final, it could mean that both of the businesspeople indicted last year alongside Lt. Fan Yang and his wife, Yang Yang, have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Zheng Yan, an administrative assistant at the Shanghai Breeze Technology Co., pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to violate American export laws and agreed to cooperate with authorities charging the Yangs and her boss, Shanghai Breeze board chairman Ge Songtao.
In a motion filed Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Coolican told Senior Judge Harvey Schlesinger that Ge and prosecutors have agreed to terms that could resolve his charges without a trial.
Ge had sought release from jail in July to prepare for his trial and Coolican asked the judge to extend a deadline for prosecutors to respond to that, saying the extension “will give the parties time to formalize their agreement.” The motion was referred to U.S. Magistrate James Klindt.
Ge was charged in October with conspiring to defraud the United States by having people who worked for him file false information to the federal government about a shipment of military-style inflatable boats and motors to his company.
Prosecutors said then that Yang Yang, whose husband was assigned to the Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Weapons School at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, operated a consulting business that Ge used to arrange exports to China.
The indictment said that Ge’s company employed Yang Yang at Fan Yang’s request and that both husband and wife had business cards from Yang Yang’s business identifying them as consultants.
Ge and the Yangs were also charged with conspiring to violate federal gun laws by Fan Yang buying a pistol in his own name that the indictment said was then engraved with Ge’s initials and kept in a storage unit for Ge when he was in America for business trips. Foreigners on short-term visits aren’t legally allowed to possess guns.
Fan Yang, who held a top-secret security clearance before the indictment, faces a broader variety of accusations than the others because the indictment included claims involving his military service and a gun purchase, not just smuggling/export issues.
The indictment said that Fan Yang had traded email with Ge since at least 2008 — after he had completed a tour as an enlisted man, but before he finished college, married and became an officer.
It said the lieutenant and the businessman had met in person several times, and that Fan Yang tried to hide his relationship with Ge from his bosses. It claimed that he took time off in 2018 after telling his superiors he was taking his family to Disney, but really traveled with his wife to Iowa to meet Ge and Zheng.
The case has been notable also because prosecutors announced plans to use potentially sensitive information gathered through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Involvement with FISA led to Schlesinger designating a classified information security officer to oversee the handling of classified information in the case. A motion to set rules limiting use of certain sensitive information was filed under seal with the security officer last week.
Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263