Woman pleads guilty to selling fake chips to US military

An American woman has pleaded guilty to selling fake computer chips to the US military.

Stephanie McCloskey, who is from Florida, worked as an administrator for VisionTech Components. The company sold what were supposed to be military-grade integrated circuits able to handle very high temperatures and inhospitable environments, all of which bore labels of large chip firms like Intel and Texas Instruments. It was later discovered that these chips were counterfeit.

The fake chips, which numbered up to 60,000, were imported from Hong Kong and China and some were in such poor condition that VisionTech employees needed to use erasers to “polish” them. The company also tampered with chip labels to make it impossible to match the circuit number with the one on the box.

VisionTech conducted business with the US military and various other companies, particularly linked with defence, bringing in $15.8 million over three years, while only spending $425,000 on buying the counterfeit chips.

The woman received $166,141 in pay for working for the company, which she has agreed to forfeit as part of her guilty plea. This is likely to lessen her potential sentence.

Her employer, Shannon Wren, has also been charged. Both were arrested in September and face sentencing at an as yet undecided time.

McCloskey faces a possible fine of $250,000 and up to five years behind bars.