A Chinese national who was trying to export radiation-hardened computer chips for satellites pleaded guilty last week to violating the federal Arms Export Control Act and to smuggling charges.

Federal prosecutors said Philip Chaohui He, also known as Philip Hope, purchased more than $550,000 worth of radiation-hardened memory chips from Colorado Springs, CO, manufacturer Aeroflex.

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Employees at Aeroflex, though, became suspicious and tipped off federal authorities.

Federal agents busted him at the port of Long Beach, CA, as he attempted to transfer the chips, disguised within containers of infant formula, to a Chinese-flagged freighter, federal prosecutors said.

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“We have specific laws designed to protect sensitive American technology from getting into the wrong hands overseas,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “Defendant HE attempted to smuggle export-controlled radiation-hardened computer chips to China, and faces serious punishment for his criminal activity.”

He pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy charges in federal court. He faces a five years in prison.

He, who ended up arrested in December 2011, was an engineer on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tamie McGowen has said He’s work for the department was separate from the charges, and he never had access to information that wasn’t publicly available.

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