Four people of Chinese origin were arrested on Oct. 17 in Florida on charges of conspiracy to illegally send military vessels and engines to China.
According to a statement issued by the Department of Justice, the group was running a scheme that illegally sent military inflatable boats and Evinrude MFE outboard motors to China.
Two of the detainees are naturalized citizens: U.S. Navy Lt. Yang Yang and his wife, Fan Yang, both residents of Jacksonville.
The other two defendants are Ge Songtao and Zheng Yan, both nationals and residents of China.
The detainees have also been charged with violating the firearms law that prohibits an alien admitted under a nonimmigrant visa from possessing and/or transferring a firearm to a nonresident.
Yang Yang also faces charges for making false official statements to a firearms dealer, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and for making false official statements in his security clearance application, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
If convicted of conspiracy or for sending false export information, each of the defendants faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
If convicted on the charge of attempted smuggling, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The Chinese Communist Party has long been on the radar of U.S. authorities due to repeated cases of theft of technology and intellectual property, especially military property, perpetrated by people linked to the CCP.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in September that China poses a more serious counterintelligence threat to the United States than any other country, including Russia, according to The Guardian.
In July, Wray testified before a Senate panel that the FBI conducted more than 1,000 investigations involving economic espionage and attempted theft of intellectual property, almost all of which led to China.