A Chinese national living in Southern California admitted on Wednesday trying to arrange the sale from China to the United States of 200 shoulder-fired missiles that can be used to bring down airplanes.
Chao Tung Wu, 51, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to conspiring to import the missiles for a buyer who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
When Wu was indicted in November along with another man, Yi Qing Chen, they became the first people charged under a 2004 U.S. law forbidding the import of aircraft-destroying missile systems into the United States, officials said.
Wu, who also admitted to trafficking methamphetamine, counterfeit bills, cigarettes and Ecstasy tablets into the United States, made a plea bargain with U.S. prosecutors in hopes of reducing a possible 25-year prison term.
The indictment identifies the missiles as the QW-2 shoulder-fired type used by the Chinese military since the late 1990s. According to court papers, the undercover FBI agent was told the missiles would be shipped from China to Cambodia and then to the United States with the help of bribed officials.
However, the third-party country was later switched to Paraguay. The missiles were never delivered.
Wu is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31. Chen is awaiting trial.