JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4Jax I-TEAM continues to unravel an international mystery centered on Naval Air Station Jacksonville involving a Navy lieutenant with access to top secret information and ties to China, an illegal gun, an FBI raid and agents say: Lies, lies and more lies.
Lt. Fan Yang and his wife Yang Yang are scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday. They were arrested, along with two other Chinese nationals, after a raid at the Yang's San Jose home Thursday.
The FBI said all four suspects had a role in the conspiracy, but Fan Yang's alleged role is the most problematic given his access to classified material. The I-TEAM found documents showing the U.S. citizen lied repeatedly to his naval commanders and on government background checks.
Fan Yang's job as a lieutenant in the anti-submarine warfare unit at NAS Jacksonville took him to the front lines of the naval forces, granting him access to top secret and classified information.
Court records show to Fang worked daily in "a sensitive anti-submarine warfare unit" but to get that security clearance, Fang had to answer internal documents, and federal agents say he routinely lied to the government.
Yang was asked if he had any foreign bank accounts. He said, no, but agents found that was a lie. Documents show Yang did have an account at the Bank of China and gave someone else power of attorney to operate it in 2012 when he reenrolled in the Navy.
Another question: Did he have close or continuing contact with foreign nationals in the last seven years? He said, no. Agents say, again, that was a lie.
Court records show he was in contact with two Chinese nationals in the U.S. Agents found 400 emails alone between Fan Yang and Ge Songtao over three years. Songtao is a Chinese national arrested as a co-conspirator in the case.
Songtao entered the U.S. on a visa in 2016 and told the government he was coming for "business and tourism purposes." Yang was born in China but became a U.S. citizen during his time in the Navy.
What's more, documents show Yang was being paid $3,000 to $5,000 a month by Songtao because he and his wife were helping smuggle inflatable boats from the U.S. to China -- specifically boats with military-use engines.
The couple allegedly received more than $200,000 in the scheme. Documents show Fan Yang lied again to get a gun for Songtao, claiming it was a personal weapon for Yang Yang, even though he later had it engraved with Songtao's initials.
It's illegal to get a gun for a foreign national.
Documents show Fan Yang also lied to an Orlando shooting-range where he also said he was in the tourism business and wanted to bring Chinese tourists over to shoot guns. He made no mention of his actual day job with the Navy.
Fan Yang also lied to his commanders in June 2018 when he asked for vacation time so that he could take his family to Disney, documents show. Agents say the couple flew to Sioux City, Iowa. At the same time, records show Fan Yang bought Songtao a ticket to a Nebraska airport about an hour away from where the Yangs flew to in Iowa.
Agents have not released details if the alleged co-conspirators met up, and if so, why.
Records show Fan Yang joined the Navy in 2005, was discharged in 2007, went back to school and reenlisted in 2012.
Fan Yang worked his way up and gained access to top secret information, but it's unclear if that information was being misused.
It's also unclear if the Navy was thoroughly vetting the false information Fan Yang was repeatedly giving, or taking him at his word until the FBI came calling.
The Yangs will be in court Wednesday for a bond hearing. So far, they have not been charged with espionage.
The I-TEAM contacted three officials within the Navy today to inquire about background checks done on Fan Yang. Each time, the I-TEAM was referred back to the Department of Justice and told the U.S. Navy couldn't comment further.