A Southern California man was convicted Wednesday on a conspiracy charge for attempting to arrange the smuggling of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles from his homeland into the United States.
Yi Qing Chen, 46, of Rosemead, was found guilty of five felony counts, including drug conspiracy and conspiracy to import missile systems designed to destroy aircraft.
It is the first guilty verdict in the nation under a 2004 anti-terrorism statute that outlaws the importing of missile systems designed to destroy aircraft. The statute calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and the possibility of life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors said Chen and Chao Tung Wu, both naturalized U.S. citizens born in China, met with an undercover agent in October 2004 and said they could arrange shipment of the missiles from China. The agent was initially told 200 missiles were available to buy.
The missiles were never delivered because Wu and Chen were arrested before the deal was concluded.
Wu pleaded guilty in 2006 to similar charges and died while he awaited sentencing.
The case against Chen and Wu was part of an FBI-led investigation called "Operation Smoking Dragon," that examined smuggling operations in Southern California. Along with a related investigation, 87 people were indicted on conspiracy charges to smuggle counterfeit U.S. currency, drugs and other items into the United States.