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3 Chinese nationals sentenced for taking naval base photos

The Detroit News

Three Chinese nationals, two of whom attended the University of Michigan, were sentenced recently after entering a restricted naval base in Florida and snapping photographs.

Yuhao Wang, 24, and Jielun Zhang, 25, were sentenced on June 5 to nine months and 12 months, respectively, after pleading guilty to illegally entering the Naval Air Station Key West in Florida on Jan. 4 and taking photos and video footage of the property and military equipment, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.

The two will also have one year of supervised release when they are out.

The pair were arrested after allegedly defying a U.S. Navy Security Forces Master of Arms staffing the guard station at the entrance of Sigsbee Annex Naval Air Station.

After 30 minutes on the restricted property, they were located by security. Both had cellphones, and Zhang, a Nikon camera, with photographs of the annex property, including U.S. military structures on Fleming Key, the federal complaint notes.

According to the complaint, Zhang and Wang approached the guard station at the annex entrance at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in a blue four-door Hyundai. They spoke with the master of arms, who requested military identification, which neither could provide.

Wang, who was the driver, then ignored the guard's instruction to turn the vehicle around and "proceeded to drive forward and continue onto Sigsbee Annex in contradiction to the instructions from the MA," according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Chris Klettheimer.

After tracking the pair down, U.S. Navy Security Forces obtained their consent to look at the phones and camera, and found the photographs. Wang and Zhang admitted to defying the guard and taking the photographs, according to the document.

According to the Miami Herald, the Chinese nationals also disclosed they were students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor during a discussion with the magistrate about their finances to assess whether they qualified for a public defender and court-appointed attorney.

Both said they had $9,000 each in U.S. bank accounts for tuition payments at UM, according to the newspaper. The magistrate ruled they would have to use $7,500 each to offset the public cost of the public defender and private attorney.

The University of Michigan only confirmed that Zhang was a student.

The arrests of Wang and Zhang follow two similar cases involving Chinese nationals taking photos at the Key West base.

On Dec. 26, Lyuyou Liao was charged with illegally taking pictures at another annex of the Naval Air Station. The 27-year-old was sentenced to 12 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release.

A fourth Chinese man, Zhao Qianli, 20, was sentenced to a year in federal prison last year after pleading guilty to illegally taking photographs at the same Florida Keys installation.