The U.S. Justice Department says a Chinese citizen working for an American technology company has been arrested for sending sensitive defense-related information to China.

A statement Tuesday says U.S. agents arrested Liu Sixing, also known as Steve Liu, at his home and charged him with one count of exporting technical military data without a license.

Liu, who has permanent residency status in the United States, worked for the New Jersey-based company from March 2009 until November 2010 as a senior engineer on a team developing precision navigation devices.

Court documents say he boarded a flight from Newark to China last November, but upon returning from Shanghai, he was found to have a non-work issued computer containing hundreds of documents about the company's projects.  

A search also revealed images of a presentation Liu made to a technology conference organized by the Chinese government.  

Officials say Liu never told the company about his travel or his role in the conference, which is in violation of the company's security rules.

If convicted, Liu faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The Justice Department statement says Liu holds a doctoral degree in electrical engineering and was part of the research and development team that worked on precision navigation devices and other innovative components for the U.S. Department of Defense.

It says Liu was never issued a company laptop, and did not have the authority to access company data outside of its New Jersey facility.

Edward Kahrer, head of the FBI's office in Newark, New Jersey, said the case "raised very serious questions," describing the technology he helped develop as "critical to our military infrastructure."

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said according to the complaint, Liu violated the rules of his company and the laws of this country".