Reuters International

By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Florida woman was charged with conspiring to illegally export U.S. technology used in underwater drones to a Chinese state-owned entity, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.

Amin Yu, 53, of Orlando, Florida worked from 2002 until February 2014 to obtain systems and components used in marine submersible vehicles at the direction of her co-conspirators at Harbin Engineering University in China, according to the charges.

Yu was charged with 18 counts, including acting as an illegal agent for a foreign government, unlawful export and money laundering. Yu fraudulently and knowingly exported materials in violation of U.S. law, the indictment said.

Harbin Engineering University conducts research and development for the Chinese government and military, according to the charging document.

Yu was a citizen of China and a lawful permanent resident of the United States while obtaining parts from companies in the United States, Canada and Europe.

In an email entered as evidence, Yu said at least one of the devices she had obtained, an underwater acoustic locator, would be used on an underwater drone.

The case underlines tensions between the United States and China over intellectual property rights. The FBI has said cases of economic espionage rose 53 percent in 2015, the majority of which involved Chinese nationals.

If convicted, Yu faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each count of money laundering and a maximum of 10 years for acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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