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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit
03/28/2011

Foreign national indicted for illegal import of unmanned aerial vehicle

drone plane
drone plane

TAMPA – A federal grand jury in Tampa returned an indictment charging Henson Chua, 47, of Manila, Philippines, with violations of the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

If convicted on all counts, Chua faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

Chua was arrested on a criminal complaint on the evening of Feb. 10 in Los Angeles.

"ICE HSI is committed to protecting the security of our homeland and our troops abroad by ensuring that the sale and distribution of weapons and military technology is done lawfully, and that these items do not fall into the wrong hands," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Tampa. "We make use of our full statutory authority to investigate and enforce criminal violations of all U.S. export laws related to military items, controlled 'dual-use' commodities and sanctioned or embargoed countries. Our national security depends on it."

According to the indictment, Chua knowingly and willfully caused the temporary import into the United States of an item designated as a defense article on the U.S. Munitions List, namely an RQ-11B "Raven" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and aided and abetted the attempted export from the United States of the same item, without having first obtained from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization.

Chua is also accused of knowingly bringing an item into the United States contrary to law.

According to court documents, Chua initially listed the item for sale on eBay and then engaged in communications with undercover agents from ICE HSI which culminated in the recovery of the item by U.S. officials.

ICE HSI was assisted by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

This case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara C. Sweeney, Middle District of Florida.