By Oren Liebermann

NEWARK, NJ (CBS) — Two Taiwanese nationals were charged with attempting to steal U.S. military secrets and spying for the Chinese government, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced Wednesday morning.

Hui Sheng Shen, 45, and Huan Ling Chang, 41, had already been charged in connection with a counterfeit goods smuggling ring through the ports of New York and New Jersey, and the spying charges arose out of that investigation. Additionally, the two have been charged with attempting to import more than 100 pounds of crystal meth from Taiwan into the United States.

Last September, investigators say the two men asked undercover FBI agents if they could obtain sensitive military technology. The suspects were interested in Lockheed Martin F-22 stealth technology, nuclear technology, unmanned aerial vehicle technology and more.

According to the criminal complaint, when the undercover agents said they would rather not profit from a deal that hurt the United States, suspect Shen replied, “I think that all items would hurt America.” When the agents tried to find out who wanted the technology, the suspects said, “They work for Beijing government. Some kind of intelligence company for Chinese government – like C.I.A.”

The suspects also set up a system of codes to keep their conversations secret, going so far as to send a copy of the code book to the undercover agents. The parties even practiced using the code.

On February 19, the suspects showed the agents a camera which they intended to use to take pictures of military technology. The suspects would then delete the pictures from the memory card and have “contacts in China” retrieve the deleted images. Five days later, when agents showed the suspects pictures of manuals for aerial drones, Shen and Chang photographed the manuals. Before the two could delete the pictures, the agents arrested them.

The suspects are facing charges that include conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, conspiracy to import methamphetamine, and the importation of methamphetamine. The defendants could face life in prison.

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