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Calif. Man Pleads Guilty in Missile Scheme

April 20, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A naturalized U.S. citizen born in China admitted agreeing to arrange the smuggling of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles from his homeland into the United States.

Chao Tung Wu, 54, of La Puente, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to import the missiles for a buyer who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.

The guilty plea represented the first conviction under a 2004 anti-terrorism law that forbids the importation of missile systems designed to destroy aircraft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

According to Wu’s plea agreement, he and co-defendant Yi Qing Chen told an undercover agent they could help purchase 200 QW-2 shoulder-fired missiles from China ``with the assistance of a corrupt customs broker″ for $18.3 million.

Wu and Chen told the agent they could also bribe a third country to pretend to order and receive shipment of the missiles, the agreement said, but that the missiles would ultimately be shipped to Southern California in sea-land containers.

The missiles were never delivered because Wu and Chen were arrested last August before the deal was concluded. Chen has pleaded not guilty.

Wu, who was ordered held without bond, was scheduled to be sentenced July 31.

The law calls for a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, but defense attorney Gerson Horn said that under the terms of a plea bargain prosecutors would recommend that Wu receive ``well below 25 years″ in exchange for his cooperation.