A foreign national is expected to plead guilty on Thursday to buying a military spy plane and then trying to resell it on eBay.
Henson Chua is scheduled for a hearing Thursday, the Tampa Tribune reports, and according to court documents is expected to plead guilty to illegally importing an unmanned spy plane into the U.S., and then trying to auction it off on eBay.
In March, Chua was indicted and charged by a grand jury in Tampa with violating the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling, after he imported an RQ-11B “Raven” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from the Philippines into the U.S. The Raven is listed on the U.S. munitions list as a defensive item, and U.S. law forbids people from buying and selling defense equipment without permission from the government.
According to the indictments, in May 2010, the Department of Defense learned that a “Raven” had been listed on eBay for $13,000. They determined that it belonged to the U.S. government, and an agent of Homeland Security Investigations began to correspond with the seller, posing as a potential buyer.
Over the course of several months, the two corresponded about selling the plane, and also discussed how best to smuggle it out of the country. The agents believed the seller was Chua, who was from the Philippines and then in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visitor visa. He claimed he purchased the plane through an auction by the Philippine government, which had sold it as abandoned property.
Chua faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, though it is unlikely he’ll serve that long.