Bay Bridge Engineer Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Top-Secret Computer Chips - NBC Bay Area

Bay Bridge Engineer Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Top-Secret Computer Chips

Philip He was caught trying to smuggle items to China.



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    A container ship is seen in this file image. A former Caltrans engineer pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle computer chips aboard a ship owned by the same Chinese firm which built the bridge.

    China was where some of the new Bay Bridge was built -- and China was where a Caltrans engineer who worked on the project tried to send "high tech defense chips," according to reports.

    Philip Chohui He, 43, was arrested in 2011 after he was caught by a Department of Homeland Security agent in the act of trying to smuggle the computer chips onto a ship -- a ship owned by the same company, Zhenhua Port Machinery Co. Ltd, that built the bridge, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    He, who also went by Philip Hope, worked on the bridge project for 3 1/2 years before he "illegally purchased" hundreds of microchips of the same kind used on U.S. satellites.

    He tried to exit the country with the chips hidden in boxes marked "milk powder," the newspaper reported.

    He was arrested in Long Beach while in a secure area of the harbor, near where a Zhenhua ship was docked.

    Another employee of Zhenhua -- Jieyi Yang -- was there with He, the newspaper reported, but has denied any knowledge or involvement with the smuggling scheme.

    He could receive up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in Colorado on Dec. 18.