A TAIWANESE/AMERICAN nuclear engineer was sentenced last week to 24 months in prison and one year of supervised release for producing nuclear material in China in violation of the Atomic Energy Act. He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Szuhsiung Ho, aka Allen Ho, 66, a naturalized U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty in January 2017 to conspiracy to unlawfully engage or participate in the production or development of special nuclear material outside the U.S., without the required authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), violating the Atomic Energy Act.
|Szuhsiung 'Allene' Ho|
An April 2016 indictment charged Ho; China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC), the largest nuclear power company in China and Energy Technology International (ETI), a Delaware corporation with these offenses.
At the time of his indictment, Ho was a nuclear engineer, employed as a consultant by CGNPC and was also the owner of ETI. CGNPC specialized in the development and manufacture of nuclear reactors and was controlled by China’s State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
According to documents, beginning in 1997 and continuing through April 2016, Ho conspired with others to engage or participate in the development or production of special nuclear material in China.
The DOJ said in a press release that Ho aided China by recruiting engineers and other experts to advise it on faster ways to design and build components for some types of nuclear reactors.
RELATED: Civil Rights Commission asks for probe of possible racial profilng of Asian American scientstsThe intellectual and engineering aid he helped funnel toward China helped it reduce costs and cut development time for novel reactor types, said the Justice department.
Ho came to the US in 1973 to attend the University of California, Berkeley and married his wife Anne a year later. He received a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois in 1980, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen three years later.
Ho's lawyer, Peter Zeidenberg, has defended several Asian/American scientists facing espionage-related charges, and he says his clients have been targeted because of their ties to China.
"If their ties were to France or their ties were to Italy or Scandinavia, their conduct would never come under the radar of the [Justice] Department. It's a bright red flag," he says.
A former federal prosecutor, Zeidenberg adds that he understands the challenge presented by Chinese economic espionage. But he believes his former colleagues are overreacting. "They have been way too quick to pull the trigger on these cases and others," he says. "They see conspiracies and patterns and malevolent conduct, when there isn't any."
The FBI, which investigates cases of espionage, did not want to comment on specific cases, but denied the allegations of racial profiling. "The FBI does not initiate investigations based on an individual's race, ethnicity, national origin or religion," said the FBI in response to a query from NPR.
Ho's case was a multi-agency investigation by the FBI, Tennessee Valley Authority-Office of the Inspector General, DOE-National Nuclear Security Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and other government agencies.