Woman accused of spying for China at Motorola

June 25, 2008 8:55:34 PM PDT
A Chinese spy was caught "red-handed," according to federal authorities, as she was about to board a plane at O'Hare bound for Beijing. Hanjuan Jin says she worked as a computer engineer for Schaumburg-based Motorola, a global leader in communications technology.

Federal agents say Jin was also working as a spy for a Chinese company, and she has been charged in a corporate espionage case that reflects a growing national security problem.

She doesn't look much like the villainess in a James Bond film. But the FBI says 37-year-old Hanjuan Jin played the spy role in real life.

Jin, a Chinese-born American citizen and graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, had been working at Motorola headquarters in Schaumburg since 1998. She was a software engineer, living in a comfortable townhouse not far from her job.

Two years ago, according to a federal indictment handed up in April, Jin went on medical leave from Motorola.

Despite claiming to be deathly ill, investigators say, she traveled from Chicago to Beijing where she agreed to work for a Chinese tech company that allegedly recruited her to steal Motorola secrets.

"The federal government is saying basically that you're a corporate spy. What about that?" the I-Team's Chuck Goudie asked Jin.

"No, I'm not. I'm not. I'm not," she responded.

"You're not a spy?" Goudie asked.

"They made a mistake," Jin said.

According to the indictment, a Chinese executive told Jin, "You should share in the fruit of our collective effort," once she'd stolen top-secret Motorola files, schematics and military communication plans.

When Jin returned to Motorola from medical leave in February of 2007, authorities say, she did just that, downloading hundreds of confidential documents from the company's supposedly secure internal network, including documents related to public safety organizations in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Two days later, she arrived at O'Hare Airport with a one-way ticket to Beijing.

"What were you doing at O'Hare Airport with a one-way ticket to China?" Goudie asked.

"No, I go to visit my mom. My husband and my mom are China," she said.

Hanjuan Jin was just a few steps away from boarding a United 747 non-stop to China. It was only a routine check of passengers by customs agents that revealed she was carrying $30,000 in cash after declaring she had only $10,000.

"Why were you on a one-way ticket?" Goudie asked.

"Because I can buy it cheaper to China," Jin said.

"They say you're a spy," Goudie said.

"They say that, but it's not true. They make mistake. They're paranoid. They wrongly accuse me. I have fatal disease," Jin said.

"What is the fatal disease?" Goudie asked.

"I have TB and meningitis," Jin said.

"You have tuberculosis?" Goudie asked.

"I almost died," Jin responded.

During the search of Jin and her bags at O'Hare, federal agents say they found a laptop computer and more than 30 compact data storage devices containing stolen Motorola files.

Jin told Goudie the files had been given to her by a supervisor at Motorola to refresh her memory from the medical leave.

"He assigned me too much work. I couldn't do it," Jin said.

"So you were gonna take and do it in China?" Goudie asked.

"That's OK," Jin responded before getting into a car.

On its Web site, Motorola touts the company's internal security but declined an invitation from the I-Team to explain how an employee just off medical leave could nearly board a plane to Beijing with $600 million in corporate secrets. That is Motorola's own estimate quoted by the FBI.

In a brief, generic statement, Motorola cited its "extensive policies, procedures and training in place to protect the security and confidentiality of the Company's intellectual property."

Motorola isn't alone. This month, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin asked for an investigation of whether senate computers are among dozens of government devices hacked into by the Chinese. And national security agencies are now warning all Americans attending the Beijing Olympics this summer to leave cell phones and laptops at home because, they say, there is a 100 percent likelihood that Chinese agents will scan and steal the contents.

The FBI, apparently unimpressed by American corporate security, recently increased counterintelligence against Chinese infiltration of U.S. companies. FBI director Robert Mueller says he has "substantial concerns" that China is using scientists, students and "front companies" to steal U.S. military secrets, and that poses a threat to our national security.

In the past year, there have been at least a dozen criminal cases of Chinese espionage brought in the U.S.


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