In a significant development, Chenguang Gong, a 57-year-old San Jose resident, was apprehended on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for allegedly stealing sensitive nuclear technology information. The stolen trade secrets were intended to benefit China and other hostile foreign adversaries. Gong, an engineer, is accused of pilfering classified information developed by the U.S. government, specifically related to the detection of nuclear missile launches and the tracking of ballistic and hypersonic missiles.
The arrest was made following an investigation conducted by the U.S. Disruptive Technology Strike Force, an agency dedicated to thwarting attempts to exploit the nation’s most powerful technology against it. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco emphasized the agency’s commitment to apprehending individuals who seek to steal and misuse critical technology.
Gong, a Chinese-born American citizen who became naturalized in 2011, resides in San Jose. He was scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom in the Northern District of California on Wednesday. According to a criminal complaint, Gong illicitly transferred over 3,600 files from a research and development company where he was employed for a brief period last year. These files included blueprints for advanced infrared sensors designed for space-based systems to detect nuclear missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles. Additionally, the stolen information encompassed blueprints for sensors enabling U.S. military aircraft to detect incoming heat-seeking missiles and employ countermeasures.
The company, whose name was redacted from court documents, had a close working relationship with the U.S. government and invested substantial resources annually in the development of this technology. Prosecutors assert that the top-secret information obtained by Gong poses a significant threat to U.S. national security if acquired by international actors.
U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada expressed concern over Gong’s actions, highlighting his previous attempts to provide information to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for military purposes. Estrada emphasized the ongoing efforts to safeguard American innovations against foreign actors seeking to steal technology.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department commended the Disruptive Technology Strike Force for its role in disrupting criminal schemes aimed at smuggling highly-sensitive technology used by foreign adversaries to advance their military and other malign agendas.
The investigation revealed that Gong had submitted applications to “Talent Programs” administered by the PRC government between 2014 and 2022 while working at various major technology companies in the United States. These programs enticed applicants with significant financial and social incentives. Gong also made multiple trips to China to seek Talent Program funding, despite acknowledging the risk involved due to his employment with an American military industry company.