On May 20, 2008, the Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury returned an 18 count indictment charging J. Reece Roth, a professor emeritus who headed University of Tennessee's Plasma Sciences Lab, and Atmospheric Glow Technologies, Inc. (AGT), a Knoxville-based company Roth helped found, of conspiring to defraud the U.S. Air Force and disclose restricted U.S. military data about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or "drones" to foreign nationals without first obtaining the required U.S. government license or approval. (The indictment is available here on Clif Burns' Export Law Blog.) Graduate students from China and Iran are alleged to have been given unfettered access to controlled technology.
Roth, who is 70 and now retired, was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Air Force and violate the Arms Export Control Act (AECA); 15 counts of violating the AECA; and one count of wire fraud for defrauding the University of Tennessee. AGT is charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Air Force and violate the AECA and 10 counts of violating the AECA.
The DOJ announcement states that:
According to the indictment, between January 2004 and May 2006, Roth and AGT engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Air Force and transmit export-controlled technical data related to a restricted U.S. Air Force contract to develop plasma actuators for a munitions-type UAV, or "drone," to one or more foreign nationals, including a citizen from the People's Republic of China. The Chinese national was a graduate research assistant at the University of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee was victimized by the conspirators and cooperated throughout with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led federal investigation.
United States Attorney Russ Dedrick said, "The protection of United States technology is a continuing priority of the Department of Justice and this District. Whenever restricted U.S. military data is illegally disclosed to foreign nationals, America's security is put at risk. Today's indictment demonstrates just how seriously we view such violations."
Violations of the AECA carry a maximum possibly penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine. Wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine and conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.