Feds accuse men in scheme to smuggle missiles into U.S.
LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury indicted two men Wednesday for allegedly conspiring to smuggle surface-to-air missiles into the United States for use abroad. Such missiles are designed to bring down aircraft.The U.S. attorney’s office said the charges marked the first time a 2004 anti-terrorism law has been used. The law calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and the possibility of life in prison without parole if convicted.Chao Tung Wu, 51, and Yi Qing Chen, 41, are naturalized U.S. citizens born in China, authorities said. The conspiracy did not involve domestic terrorists, and the two men were told by an undercover agent that the missiles would be sent abroad, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.The indictment specified that bribes, including one for $2 million, were to be paid to certain foreign officials. Authorities declined to identify the countries involved.Gerson Horn, an attorney for Wu, said an undercover agent had tried to buy weapons from Wu and that Chen was allegedly involved in the negotiations. He said the agent “initiated the negotiations and persisted in the negotiations but it never bore fruit … with either one of them.”He said his client was innocent and that the case was “conceived, nurtured and orchestrated by the undercover agent, who worked this case for a number of years.”Horn also said no weapons or weapons components changed hands.An attorney for Chen did not immediately return a call for comment.The men have been in custody since August when they were arrested as part of a federal undercover probe into smuggling in Southern California. They were originally charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and Ecstasy and importing millions of counterfeit cigarettes.The men were previously ordered held without bond. An arraignment hearing on the new charges was scheduled for Monday.”Today’s indictment shows a willingness of the smugglers to acquire practically anything for importation, no matter how dangerous or destructive,” U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang said in a statement.Vail, Colorado