Allegedly failed to reveal multiple contacts with a Chinese National and business, including messages, meetings in foreign countries, and cash payments.
SAN DIEGO – A former U.S. Army helicopter pilot-turned-civilian-contractor appeared in federal court in San Diego yesterday to face charges that when he was required to make disclosures during national security background checks, he failed to disclose that he repeatedly met with – and received cash payments from – a Chinese national linked to intelligence services.
Shapour Moinian, 66 years of age from Mira Mesa, worked for many years for various defense contractors and also as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Navy and was subjected to multiple national security background checks. According to a complaint and disclosures made at his initial appearance and bond hearing, Moinian made false statements on these questionnaires, asserting repeatedly that he did not have any contact with foreign nationals.
In 2017, Moinian was communicating with a Chinese National, who posed as a recruiter on a job-services platform in a manner that both Germany and France have publicly identified as a technique used by Chinese intelligence services. Thereafter, Moinian travelled to China where in March 2017, while working at a cleared defense contractor on various projects, including a high-altitude, unmanned surveillance aircraft used by the U.S. Military and various allies. Upon returning, Moinian continued to communicate with his Chinese contact and update her on the progress of his work for her. In September 2017, Moinian again traveled overseas and met with his Chinese contact. Following this meeting, Moinian used a relative’s South Korean bank account to receive payment from his Chinese contact, which he then had wired to him in the United States.
In 2017, in the midst of his communications, visits, and working for his Chinese contact, Moinian completed a Questionnaire for National Security Background Investigations, where it is alleged he made knowingly and willfully materially false, fraudulent, and fictitious statements and representations, when he stated that he had not had close or continuing contact with a foreign national and had not been asked to work as a consultant, or consider employment by a foreign national, within the past seven years.
In 2018 after returning from another overseas meeting with his Chinese contact and her associates, where he received a cash payment, Moinian conducted searches using an internet search engine for sabotage, espionage, spying, and selling military information to a foreign country. In June 2019, Moinian requested a $20,000 payment from his Chinese contact, telling her that it was for a friend. In August of that year, Moinian traveled overseas to meet with his Chinese contact and others, where he received a large cash payment.
In 2020, when completing another Questionnaire for National Security Background Investigations, it is alleged Moinian made knowingly and willfully materially false, fraudulent, and fictitious statements and representations, when he reaffirmed that he had not had close or continuing contact with a foreign national and had not been asked to work as a consultant, or consider employment by a foreign national, within the past seven years.
Moinian, a former helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army, continued his work for various defense contractors while communicating and meeting with his Chinese contact and her associates, who provided him with cash payments that he smuggled back into the United States. These meetings, and payments, occurred in multiple overseas locations, including Hong Kong, Macau, Bali, and Taiwan. In addition to cash payments at these meetings, Moinian also received at least one other payment from his Chinese contact that he funneled through his relative’s South Korean bank account.
At the time of his arrest on October 1, 2021, Moinian was working for another cleared defense contractor and was slated to relocate to South Korea to work on a military aircraft being produced for that country. When he was arrested, Moinian had already provided many of his belongings to a company to transport to South Korea, and given notice that he was vacating his apartment the following week. Although these charges have been filed, the investigation is continuing by both the FBI and NCIS.
“The complaint alleges a disturbing failure to reveal information highly relevant to the background clearance process,” stated Acting United States Randy Grossman. “This office is committed to ensuring that individuals in sensitive national security positions are worthy of the trust placed in them.” Grossman commended the work of AUSA Fred Sheppard, DOJ’s National Security Division and the FBI and NCIS agents who diligently pursued this matter.
“This case serves as a stark reminder of the social media exploitation strategies Chinese intelligence agencies will utilize to target, recruit, and maintain contact with valuable foreign assets,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “Let this arrest serve as a deterrent to those who may consider hiding their foreign contacts in the hopes they can live a double-life and not get caught.”
“Mr. Moinian’s alleged false statements on security background forms about his contact with foreign nationals posed a significant threat to our national security,” said Special Agent in Charge Michelle Kramer of the NCIS Office of Special Projects. “This arrest should serve as a warning that NCIS and our law enforcement partners remain committed to rooting out any and all criminal attempts to compromise our nation’s national security interests. We sincerely thank our partners for their substantial efforts during this investigation to preserve U.S. warfighter superiority.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.