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St. Louis Whistle-Blower: Feds Under-Prosecuted Chinese Map Making Case

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A photo of the Chinese flag, via CBS News.

A photo of the Chinese flag, via CBS News.

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - A local whistle-blower who told federal authorities that a map making company was using Chinese labor to produce maps for the U.S. Department of Defense is now accusing prosecutors of under-prosecuting the case.

Jim Peterson is the former Vice President of Sanborn Map Company, a Colorado firm which once operated a regional office in Chesterfield. Peterson told the feds the company was using Chinese subcontractors to create three-dimensional photographic maps of Marine Corps bases in the U.S. and U.S. supply lines, a project code-named “Buckeye.”

“This was for supply routes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagery and LiDAR, which is laser scan data from an airplane, of our supply routes. And as far as I know, what some of these things were used for was to anticipate where IEDs might be,” Peterson said, referring to improvised explosive devices, homemade bombs often used against American forces in the region.

Peterson says “Project Buckeye” caused him to lose sleep and prompted him to blow the whistle on the project.

“This data is way better than what you see on Google Earth, it’s three-dimensional data. To me, that’s a scary thought. Just to know the exact size of our facilities and for whatever the Chinese think they could do with it,” he added.

To the disappointment of Peterson, the federal government’s case ended with Sanborn Senior Vice President Robert Williams pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of theft of government money.

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan says the case was prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. Callahan says the military data shared with the Chinese was not classified and the Department of Defense was satisfied with the map work done by the Chinese.

Williams is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in St. Louis on November 25. Regardless of the sentence given, Peterson believes it won’t be enough.

“Every time I see, and especially on Veterans Day, these people injured, maimed for life, I hold some of the people I worked with accountable for it,” Peterson said.

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