Saturday, January 18

Professor convicted of conspiracy to illegally export microchips to China

Yi Chi Shih, an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at UCLA, could face up to 219 years in prison for attempting to illegally export electronics with military applications to China. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Shih last taught at UCLA fall of 2007. In fact, Shih last taught at UCLA in winter of 2011.

This post was updated July 13 at 9:07 a.m.

A UCLA professor could face up to 219 years in prison for attempting to export electronics with military applications to China, according to a Department of Justice press release Tuesday.

Yi Chi Shih, an adjunct professor of electrical engineering and part-time Los Angeles resident, was convicted June 26 of 18 federal charges involving a scheme to obtain microchips and illegally export them to China.

The microchips, known as monolithic microwave integrated circuits, can be used in different types of military technologies, such as missiles and fighter jets.

According to the press release, Shih posed as a customer to obtain the MMICs from an American company and then shipped the microchips to Chengdu GaStone Technology Company, a Chinese company in the process of building its own MMIC manufacturing facility.

CGTC, of which Shih previously served as president, was placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List in 2014, meaning it was marked as a national security threat and authorization was required before technology could be sold to the company.

Shih was also convicted on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, falsifying tax returns, making false statements to a federal agency and conspiring to gain unauthorized access to a protected computer.

Codefendant Kiet Ahn Mai pleaded guilty to federal charges of smuggling in December and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Mai is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 19, according to the press release. A date has not yet been set for Shih’s sentencing.

UCLA did not respond to requests for comment.

The most recent records show that Shih was an adjunct professor at UCLA during the 2016-2017 academic year. Shih last taught a course at The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science during winter quarter of 2011.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit
Assistant News editor

Shapero is an assistant News editor in the National News & Higher Education beat. She was previously a contributor for the National News & Higher Education beat. Shapero is a third-year political science student who enjoys covering national and statewide news.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Joe in Temecula

    UCLA is too trusting. Scandal after scandal. A little more scrutiny is called more.

  • Luis Gomez

    Like seriously this school is getting wrose yet it’s still one of the top schools in Cali. Why do they trust there employees so much they should add more background check when hiring a new professor or staff.

  • Aaaqil3

    Actual details on the case, rather than copying word by word the released statement from the Trump-captured justice system.

    … Spertus said the company that the Justice Department declined to identify was Cree Inc, a foundry in Durham, North Carolina, that makes prototypes. Shih designed a chip and sent it to Cree to see if his design worked, the lawyer said.

    The so-called computer portal Shih accessed is a drop box that Cree customers use, Spertus said. “This was a railroad effort by the government to send a strong message back to China,” the lawyer said. “Shih got caught in a trade war he had nothing to do with.”

    … But Spertus said the semiconductors in question were part of Shih’s research and were not sent to China. One of Shih’s students may have taken a chip back to China as part of a research project and an export license was not required, the lawyer said.

    The US government was never clear what basis it had for its allegation that computer wafers were sent to China, Spertus said. Shih was president of CGTC but left before the company was put on the Entity List, Spertus said.

    “This was not justice,” he added. “This trial is beyond anything I’ve seen in my life. There was so much prejudice.”

    So you got a professor facing 219 years in jail accessing a chip that they designed themselves. The chip was uploaded by themselves to a foundry to check if it works.

    There is no justice. The court system is a complete joke. News media also a complete joke. No one is trying to find facts. The mangled words of the prosecution is taken as the truth. Every single American based news media is severely biased against the Chinese American scientist. This is an actual witch hunt.