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Tech Firm Accused of Selling Chinese Spy Equipment to U.S. Government

SubverseNov 8, 2019, 9:31:31 PM

By Sean Jackson

U.S. prosecutors charged a New York company and its employees over a thirteen year plot to illegally import and sell technology made in China to sell to the U.S. government. The technology included surveillance and security equipment that could potentially be exploited by foreign actors.

The company, Aventura Technologies Inc, is accused of defrauding government entities and military entities by falsely suggesting that it manufactured security cameras and other products in the U.S., while instead importing the products from China. Founder Jack Cassabo and six other employees are implicated in the prosecution.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue spoke at a news conference about the incident, stating that Aventura, “created a channel by which foreign adversaries and other actors could access some of our government’s most sensitive facilities and computer networks.”

He also said that the products that Aventura claimed to manufactured had “known cybersecurity vulnerabilities.”

On Thursday, November 8th six of those charged were arrested and are scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn, NY after federal agents raided the Aventura headquarters on Long Island.

The employees are charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Federal agents seized bank account information, company records, and a 70-foot yacht that was purchased using money from the scheme. The raid involved dozens of investigators and law enforcement who could be seen carrying away containers and equipment.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney released a statement about the scheme, suggesting, “Greed is at the heart of this scheme, a reprehensible motive when the subjects in this case allegedly put into question the security of men and women who don uniforms each day to protect our nation.”

The scheme included contracts with military branches including the Army, Navy, and Air Force, helping generate the company upwards of $88 million since 2006. The equipment they sold was installed widely across military bases, Department of Energy facilities, and other places, including Navy aircraft carriers. Other products included a $13,500 laser-enhanced night vision camera, as well as twenty-five body cameras issued to the U.S. Air Force.

The prosecution stated that the alleged mastermind, Jack Cabasso, went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the scheme with help from his Chinese business partners. Cabasso exchanged emails with colleagues and Chinese business partners stressing that the products cannot be traced back to its original manufacturer. Last year Cabasso wrote an email to the Chinese manufacturer of surveillance equipment asking them to take off any discernible markings on circuit boards.

“As alleged, the defendants falsely claimed for years that their surveillance and security equipment was manufactured in Long Island, padding their pockets with money from lucrative contracts without regard for the risk to our country’s national security posed by secretly peddling made-in-China electronics with known cyber vulnerabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue.

According to court papers, Jack Cabasso has an extensive criminal history which includes prior convictions for grand larceny, mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiring to influence a juror.