Prosecutors are recommending a 15-year sentence for a Hong Kong arms dealer who thought he was brokering a deal with South American terrorists when he shipped anti-aircraft missile system components to undercover federal investigators in west suburban Elmhurst.
Guan Ying “Henry” Li, 50, faced a maximum of life in prison for providing the weapons parts to who he thought was a representative for the Shining Path, a communist militant group in Peru that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, according to a sentencing memorandum filed last month.
But after cooperating with federal investigators by “providing numerous proffers and grand jury testimony,” Li pleaded guilty in April 2014 to charges of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization and exporting parts for an anti-aircraft missile system in exchange for the lighter sentence, the memo says.
Starting in March 2011, Li began exchanging emails with an undercover agent from the Defense Department who claimed to be an Elmhurst businessman looking to provide missile systems for the Shining Path, prosecutors said.
The undercover agent told Li that the missile systems — which can take down helicopters — would be used against Peruvian and U.S. forces, but he still shipped batteries, harnesses, night-vision technology and other components to Elmhurst from his company in Hong Kong, prosecutors said.
Attorneys for Li, who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte,contended that the “otherwise law-abiding man” wouldn’t have brokered the deal if authorities hadn’t “manipulatively engineered” him, according to another sentencing memo. They are seeking a sentence of between three and five years — essentially credit for the time he has already served.
The leftist Shining Path gained notoriety when members tried to overthrow the government in Peru in 1980. It has lost influence since its leader Abimael Guzman was jailed in 1992, but is still a major cocaine supplier considered a terrorist group by the U.S.
A judge is expected to hand down a sentence this week for Li, who remains jailed at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center.