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Printer Is Nabbed for Illegal Exports

May 2008
LOS ANGELES—Believing the purchase of 10 thermal imaging cameras went beyond commercial printing applications, FBI agents stopped a pair of Beijing residents at Los Angeles International Airport from boarding a plane to China with the devices and charged them with knowingly attempting to export restricted items without a license.

Zhi Yong Guo, 49, and Tah Wei Chao, 52, were arrested April 7 and held without bail, pending an arraignment later in the month, according to The Associated Press. The men each face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

The thermal imaging cameras, which produce heat-based images invisible to the naked eye, are treated as munitions under the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations. They are cautiously monitored because of their potential military uses, the AP reported.

The men had been under investigation since last August, when Flir Systems of Wilsonville, OR, informed authorities that a new customer—Printing Plus Graphics of San Gabriel, CA, owned by Chao—had ordered three cameras. Flir Systems repeatedly warned the customer that they could not export the cameras without a license. In March, Chao paid $53,000 for 10 more cameras, according to the AP.

Authorities contend Chao’s business did not have any legitimate use for thermal imaging cameras.
 

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