Self-described patriot gets probation for doing business with North Korea

SHARE Self-described patriot gets probation for doing business with North Korea
SHARE Self-described patriot gets probation for doing business with North Korea

After professing to a judge that he loves America, a 39-year-old immigrant from Taiwan was sentenced Friday to probation for helping his father supply North Korea with weapons manufacturing machinery.

Yueh-Hsun “Gary” Tsai, of Glenview, received three years of probation. In 2009, he formed a company, Trans Merits, to export machine tools to North Korea in violation of a U.S. trade ban, prosecutors said.

Some of the machinery could have been used to produce rocket parts, prosecutors said.

In March, U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle sentenced Tsai’s father, 69-year-old Hsein Tai “Alex” Tsai, to two years in prison for leading the scheme. Alex Tsai had been barred from doing business in the United States because of prior business dealings with North Korea.

Father and son have both pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Gary Tsai was earning about $140,000 a year as an actuary before he was arrested in an FBI raid on his home in 2013, said his attorney, Theodore Poulos. His decision to assist his father in the scheme has ruined his life and prompted his wife to divorce him, Poulos said, calling the case a “great tragedy.”

“He is not a threat in any way to the national security of the country,” Poulos said.

Tsai, wearing a dark pinstriped suit, stood next to an interpreter who translated the proceedings for him in Chinese.

But when he addressed the court, he gave an impassioned defense of his patriotism in English, telling Norgle in a soft voice: “I love the United States of America and I would never do anything to hurt America.”

“America is my country and now is my home,” he said. “I am very sorry for everything I did.”

Federal prosecutor Brian Hayes recommended a sentence of up to six months of detention for Tsai for making a “very grave mistake.”

Although Poulos originally sought probation for his client, he said he changed his mind when he recently learned the government is seeking to deport him.

In an unusual move, Poulos asked the judge to give Tsai up to six months of home incarceration to keep him in the United States during his deportation proceedings.

But Norgle said Tsai’s crime, while serious, did not merit detention. The judge said Tsai’s “expression of love and concern for the United States” convinced him that Tsai would stay out of trouble while on probation.

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