It began as a conspiracy by two international drug traffickers to smuggle meth into New Jersey, but ended as a plot to steal U.S. military drone technology on behalf of the Chinese. At least, that’s the rather fantastic claim made by the Justice Department in an oddball caper that seems to borrow equally from Burn After Reading and Breaking Bad.
According to an amended criminal complaint filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, the two smugglers, 45-year-old Hui Sheng Shen (or “Charlie”) and 41-year-old Huan Ling Cheng (or “Alice”) provided a list of sensitive military items to undercover agents: missile engines and technical manuals; “stealth technology,” control panels and radar reflectors for the F-22 Raptor; an early warning E-2 Hawkeye plane and a list of drone tech, including control panels for the hunter-killer MQ-9 Reaper and “inferrate [infrared] mounting system technology” for the high-flying Global Hawk spy drone.
The federal court complaint details the surreal conversations.
“I got a message for you: A guy want[s] to buy a plane,” Shen allegedly told an agent in a conversation last September. “It’s a, uh, early warning aircraft,” he added.