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Navy lieutenant, wife accused of conspiring to smuggle inflatable boats to China

A U.S. Navy officer and his wife were arrested last week in Florida by the FBI and naval authorities on charges that they conspired to smuggle inflatable military-style boats from the U.S. to China, authorities said.

Lt. Fan Yang, 34, was assigned to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (MPRWS) at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and held a top-secret security clearance while working in a sensitive anti-submarine warfare unit, according to court documents obtained by Fox News. The documents were filed Oct. 11 in the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida.

Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) conduct rigid-hull inflatable boat operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Lisa M. Holsberger)

Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) conduct rigid-hull inflatable boat operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Lisa M. Holsberger)

Both are accused of conspiracy to violate federal law, specifically prohibitions on firearm possession by an alien admitted under a nonimmigrant visa and transfer of a firearm to a nonresident.

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Yang's wife is also accused of submitting false and misleading export information and fraudulently trying to export illegal merchandise from the U.S. to China.

Prosecutors alleged that the couple was in contact with two Chinese nationals and were paid $205,000 to smuggle inflatable boats from September 2018 through October of this year, according to the court documents. It is illegal for a foreign national to get a weapon.

Lt. Fan Yang, left demonstrates the systems on board a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to members of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces on March 1, 2018.?

Lt. Fan Yang, left demonstrates the systems on board a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to members of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces on March 1, 2018.? (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jakoeb Vandahlen/Navy)

Investigators found more than 400 emails between Yang and Ge Songtao, a Chinese national, over the course of three years, court filings said. Songtao and another Chinese agent were arrested in Louisiana over the weekend.

Prosecutors alleged that Songtao was the chairman of Shanghai Breeze Technology Co., which did business with the Yangs, documents said.

The couple was paid through wire transfers from Shanghai Breeze to BQ Tree, LLC, a company that was run by the couple, according to the filings.

Prosecutors said Yang's wife was listed as a chief consultant for BQ Tree and he was listed as a consultant on business cards for the company. Court documents also alleged that Yang helped get Songtao a gun.

Authorities questioned a 2018 trip the Yangs took to Disney World, which he requested the time off from the Navy for. Investigators alleged that the couple instead flew to Sioux City, Iowa.

Records showed the couple purchased a meal, rented a car and brought a flight for a Chinese national to depart from an airfield in Nebraska, according to investigators.

Yang also lied to about having a foreign bank account, and he lied to the government in order to keep his security clearance, court documents said.

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Yang was born in China and immigrated to the U.S. in 1999 as a teenager. He became an American citizen in 2006, according to court filings.

The Yangs are expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday.

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