Surveillance cameras and other equipment sold by Aventura Technologies to the United States military looked like solid American products, packaged in boxes with “Made in the U.S.A.” labels and stars-and-stripes logos.
The items were installed throughout government agencies, including on aircraft carriers and a Department of Energy facility. Then last year, a service member on an Air Force base noticed that an Aventura body camera displayed Chinese characters on the screen.
This week, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said that the equipment had actually been made in China and was vulnerable to hacking, raising the possibility that American government agencies had installed the software in their security networks that could be used for spying by China.
In a 40-page complaint, prosecutors unsealed criminal charges against Aventura, of Commack, N.Y., and seven of its current and former employees. The defendants were accused of lying to their American customers for more than a decade about the Chinese origins of the company’s products.
The case taps into a longstanding worry among national security officials in the United States about the potential for Chinese telecommunications equipment to be used for espionage. Since 2012, more than 80 percent of economic-espionage cases brought by federal prosecutors have involved China, according to the Justice Department.
In a sign of how seriously United States officials take the threat, President Trump this year moved to ban American firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a national security risk. The move effectively barred the Chinese telecom giant Huawei from doing business with American companies without United States government approval.
The Aventura products bought by government agencies included night-vision and body cameras, automated turnstiles and other security equipment, prosecutors said