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June 10, 2022San Diego, CA, United StatesNational Security

San Diego businessman pleads guilty to conspiring to violate US export control laws

SAN DIEGO – A local businessman pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in federal court, June 9. San Diego resident Joe Sery, 77, the former owner and chief executive officer of Tungsten Heavy Powder & Parts (THPP), pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit offenses against the United States, including the unlawful exportation of defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List from the United States to the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of India, and elsewhere, without first obtaining a valid license or approval for such export from the U.S. Department of State, in violation of federal export laws pursuant to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

According to his plea agreement, Sery admitted that, while the CEO of the company, he was educated and trained on the requirements of U.S. export control laws, which prohibit the unlicensed export of items and data contained on the U.S. Munitions List.

Sery entered contracts with various defense contractors related to munitions and obtained ITAR-controlled technical data from them. Thereafter, knowing it was unlawful, he provided this information to his brother, a foreign national who took the technical data to the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of India, and elsewhere at Sery’s direction. Sery also permitted his brother full access to THPP’s file system while overseas, knowing it contained export-controlled technical data.

“This individual willfully violated the law that prevents controlled technical data from falling into the hands of America’s adversaries,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “This guilty plea should serve as a reminder that HSI and our law enforcement partners will diligently investigate and bring to justice anyone attempting to disregard our federal export laws.”

“As CEO of a company with multiple defense contracts, Sery was entrusted with controlled information that he knew he had to protect, yet he completely disregarded security regulations and allowed sensitive data to be sent to China, India and elsewhere,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “He is now being held accountable.” Grossman commended the prosecutors and Homeland Security Investigations and Defense Criminal Investigative Service agents who diligently pursued this case.

“Mr. Sery’s guilty plea is an acknowledgement of his role in a scheme to illegally export critical defense information and technology,” said Bryan D. Denny, Special Agent in Charge for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Western Field Office. “As exemplified in this case, DCIS and our law enforcement partners will ensure all appropriate actions are taken to investigate and successfully prosecute those who engage in illicit activities that threaten our nation’s defense.”

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.