Naval Officer Convicted Of Straw Buying For Chinese Executive

Julie Jacobson

When we talk about straw buying, we’re usually talking about someone purchasing guns for a convicted felon. That’s really what the laws against doing so are focused on, but it’s not exclusively about just that. While keeping felons from obtaining firearms is a priority, the law also keeps foreign nationals from obtaining guns they can’t purchase for themselves.

This comes in handy when you’re talking about potential terrorists or spies.

Yet it also applies to anyone. Now, a Navy officer has been convicted of his role in straw buying guns for a Chinese executive.

Jurors convicted a Jacksonville-based U.S. Navy officer Friday of federal gun crimes, conspiracy and lying about his relationship with a Chinese business executive who’s now in prison for export crimes.

Lt. Fan Yang, 36, was indicted in 2019 with three other people after investigators used special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants to gather information about the gun-loving executive, Shanghai Breeze Technology Co. Chairman Ge Songtao.

The others all took plea deals but Yang insisted on his innocence and stood trial the past two weeks on charges that were separate from the export scheme that put Ge behind bars.

Yang, a Chinese-born American citizen, was convicted of making “straw purchases” of two pistols so Ge, an eager gun enthusiast, would have weapons to fire at shooting ranges during business trips he made to the United State two or three times a year.

It’s illegal for foreigners who don’t have green cards to possess guns except under narrow conditions, and jurors were told that Yang bought a Sig Sauer and a Glock in his name for Ge’s use.

Yang was apparently born in China but an American citizen. He served as an enlisted man in the Navy before going to college and rejoining as an officer.

Then he pulls this.

Ge apparently floated the idea of “firearm tourism,” where people from China would come in and get a chance to shoot a bunch of guns they’d never even get a chance to look at in China. Not a horrible business idea, all things considered, though it went nowhere. However, the issue is that Yang still bought firearms for Ge, which he had to know was illegal. Especially since he had to fill out a Form 4473 asking if he was buying the gun for himself or for another.

Yang’s attorney tried to argue otherwise, though, saying he was unaware what he was doing was a crime.

While most of the others arrested as part of the investigation pled guilty to charges that are basically espionage–they wanted to export inflatable “raiding” boats to China, along with a military-grade motor that Ge hoped to reverse engineer and sell to the Chinese military–Yang was not accused of anything like that.

Instead, he just bought guns for a Chinese national, lied on the 4473, and then pretended he had no clue he did anything wrong. While we can debate whether foreigners who lack a green card should be permitted to purchase firearms or not, the fact remains that the law is the law and now Yang is going to prison for doing so.

His wife, who was also arrested, got time served in exchange for her plea deal. Yang won’t be so fortunate.