Florida Keys

Chinese national indicted for photographing and sketching Key West military base

Zhao Qianli
Zhao Qianli Monroe County Sheriff's Office

A Chinese national was indicted Friday on charges he illegally photographed a military installation in Key West, taking both digital photos and video.

Zhao Qianli, 20, appeared in U.S. District Court in Key West on Friday for arraignment, speaking in court through a Mandarin interpreter.

He is accused of walking around a fence on a beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park on Sept. 26 and taking pictures of the Joint Interagency Task Force South, which is responsible for security and military operations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

He pleaded not guilty to the allegations.

“At that time, Zhao Qianli, who speaks limited broken English, stated he was ‘lost‘ and only a ‘dishwasher from New Jersey,’” according to the arrest affidavit. He was arrested that day by Key West police and charged with criminal trespassing, for which he was convicted Nov. 15 in state court.

Zhao was arrested by the FBI Nov. 30.

JIATF is located at the Naval Air Station Key West base at Truman Annex, which is cordoned off but accessible by the piece of the beach where a fence and signs warning it is restricted property.

A federal grand jury charged Zhao with six counts of photographing and sketching defense installations, a charge which carries one year in prison upon conviction. He remains locked up on a $250,000 bond.

The arraignment Friday, before Magistrate Judge Patrick M. Hunt, was a perfunctory hearing with Zhao only answering that he could understand the interpreter and his attorney, Hongwei Shang, of Miami, entering the not guilty plea.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.


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