A foreign national was indicted yesterday for allegedly illegally importing an unmanned spy plane into the U.S., and then trying to resell it on eBay.
According to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, Henson Chua of the Philippines was indicted and charged by a grand jury in Tampa with violating the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling. Chua is accused of importing an RQ-11B “Raven” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from the Philippines into the U.S., which is listed on the U.S. Munitions List as a defensive item, “without having first obtained from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization.” He then “aided and abetted the attempted export” of the same UAV.
U.S. arms code prohibits people from buying and selling defense equipment without permission from the government, primarily to prevent people from selling U.S.-manufactured equipment to foreign governments. But Chua managed to reverse the process.
According to the indictments, in May 2010, Homeland Security Investigations agents in Tampa learned from the Department of Defense that a “Raven” had been listed on eBay, for a price of $13,000. The listing also had nine pictures, which showed the bar code and ID number of that particular “Raven,” through which the DOD determined which one it was, and that it was the property of the U.S. government.
An HSI agent began to communicate with the seller, posing as a potential buyer. The would-be was identified as Chua, who was then in the US on a non-immigrant visitor visa since April, 2010.
The two began to correspond over the next several months to arrange payment and shipment for the “Raven,” and additionally discussed how the agent was planning to export it back out of the country.
In a May 17 phone call, Chua allegedly claimed he got the “Raven” in an auction by the Philippine government, who sold it as abandoned property.
At one point, in a May 14 e-mail, Chua wrote:
Now, as far as the US permits. yes you’re right that could be a bit of a problem for me if this isn’t done right. It’s tricky because you have to be a registered broker with the state department in order to transfer US military items. (The Raven and its parts are definitely military items.) Otherwise, you’re breaking US law. I’m not really registered, so I hope that is not a problem for you :)
The indictment describes how the “Raven” is “designed for low altitude surveillance and intelligence gathering missions and can be launched by hand.”
It’s pictured here:
And here it is being used by members of the military:
Chua faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.