SANTA ANA, Calif. - The sister-in-law and nephew of a former Orange County engineer convicted of orchestrating a scheme to smuggle sensitive defense information to China face deportation following their arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Fuk Hueng Mak Li, 50, and her son Billy Yui Mak, 27, were taken into custody this morning by ICE agents on administrative immigration violations. The pair, who immigrated to the United States legally in 2001 from their native country of China, became subject to deportation after pleading guilty to federal charges stemming from their role in the espionage plot.
Mak Li's brother-in-law, Chi Mak, 67, a former engineer for Anaheim defense contractor Power Paragon, was convicted last year of acting as an agent of a foreign government for his native country of China. Chi Mak, his wife, brother Tai Mak, and Mak Li were arrested by federal agents in October 2005 after Tai Mak and Mak Li attempted to board a flight from Los Angeles to China carrying an encrypted compact disc containing sensitive military information. Billy Mak was subsequently charged with helping prepare the encrypted disc. The criminal probe was led by the Federal Bureau Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, with assistance provided by ICE.
Chi Mak, his wife, and brother are all awaiting sentencing. Earlier this week, a federal judge denied Chi Mak's request for a new trial. Meanwhile, Mak Li and Billy Mak were sentenced in fall 2007, paving the way for ICE to initiative removal proceedings against them. Billy Mak was sentenced to 11 months in prison, time he had already served, and Mak Li received probation.
ICE placed the pair in removal proceedings based upon their criminal convictions for assisting in the scheme to export sensitive defense information to China. If an immigration judge upholds the charge and orders Mak Li and Billy Mak removed from the country, it would preclude them from ever returning to the United States legally. The two will remain in ICE custody pending their deportation hearings.
"This woman and her son freely admitted their role in a chilling scheme to turn over sensitive defense information to the Chinese," said Jennifer Silliman, deputy special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. "Given their reckless disregard for our nation's security, ICE's goal is to remove them from the United States and ensure they will never again be able to call their adopted country home."