New charges against Navy officer drop China export charge, add to gun crimes
By STEVE PATTERSON | The Florida Times-Union | Published: November 23, 2020
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Prosecutors have stopped trying to prove that an indicted Jacksonville Navy officer was part of a Chinese CEO’s smuggling conspiracy, but have expanded firearms charges tied to his relationship with the CEO.
Lt. Fan Yang was the subject last week of a new indictment replacing one filed last year that charged him in an export conspiracy alongside his wife and two Chinese business people.
The three co-defendants have already pleaded guilty, leaving only Yang, who had been assigned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville before being jailed last year, scheduled for trial in March.
U.S. Magistrate James Klindt has scheduled an arraignment on the new set of charges, called a superseding indictment, for Dec. 3.
The new indictment simplifies the case against Yang, 35, who was born in China, entered the United states as a teenager and became an American citizen in 2006. They charge him with twice buying handguns in his name that were really for the CEO’s use and lying on a security review to hide the extent of his connection to the business executive.
The charges recite how Yang, who served in the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man, left and earned an electrical engineering degree, then returned to enter the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in 2012, had online contact since 2008 with Ge Songtao, a veteran of China’s navy who became chairman of the Shanghai Breeze Technology Co., Ltd. in China.
The indictment says the two met in person several times, including near bases in Jacksonville and Pensacola, and recounts how Yang’s wife, Yang Yang, operated a Jacksonville-area consulting company that handled a lot of Shanghai Breeze’s business contacts with American firms.
The original indictment claimed Yang was part of a conspiracy to file false export forms to hide shipments of inflatable “raiding craft” and military-grade engines to Ge’s company in China – something that wasn’t illegal at that time.
That claim was dropped from the new indictment, although Yang Yang, Ge and his assistant, Zheng Yan, have all pleaded guilty to charges involving the smuggling plan.
Instead, the new indictment repeated a charge that Yang conspired to violate a law barring non-immigrant aliens like Ge from owning guns; made a straw purchase of a Sig Sauer pistol for Ge in 2017; and and 2018; and lying on a questionnaire he completed to renew the top-secret security clearance he had for hos job as a naval flight officer.
It also added a new charge that he made a second straw purchase of a gun, a Glock pistol, for Ge in 2018.