To his American friends and contacts, Stephen Su was an affable businessman and gregarious guy.
“People liked him,” Bob Anderson, the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence, told me. “They didn’t think he was an asshole and I know that sounds stupid, but people are people and that’s how it started.”
Stephen Su, who also went by his Chinese name Su Bin, lived in his native China but traveled frequently to the United States and Canada, to build a business in the aviation and aerospace sectors. His company, Lode-Tech, was a small player in a field of giants. It focused on manufacturing aircraft cable harnesses, a product safely at the low-tech end of the military aircraft sector. However, over the course of some five years, from 2009 to 2014, Su steadily and deliberately built a network of close business contacts inside far bigger U.S. and Canadian defense contractors with some of the most sensitive U.S. military contracts. As Anderson explained, Su made it a point to get to know the people who had access to those technologies, or people who knew the people who had such access, and “getting them to trust him.”