WOBURN, Mass., Jan. 24, 2013 — Federal agents and local police Wednesday searched the offices of government contractor Agiltron Inc., a maker of photonic components and systems, in an apparent investigation, according to media reports.
The Boston Globe
reported Wednesday that agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were among the dozens of law enforcement officials to enter the company's north-of-Boston facility. The raid was not related to an immigration matter, officials told the Globe
, but rather to federal export regulations.
Boston's 7News/WDHD.com reported that a source with knowledge of the probe told them that there are concerns that executives at Agiltron may have exported technology without the appropriate licenses. A source told 7News that federal investigators put in a long day sifting through data, emails and other computer documents.
Agiltron was founded in 2000 by Dr. Jing Zhao, who co-founded optical components manufacturer NZ Applied Technologies, which was later acquired by Corning. Agiltron makes optical switches, attenuators and components; infrared detectors; molded infrared lenses and Raman spectrometers for industries including data communications, telecommunications, aerospace, instrumentation and R&D, according to its website. The company has more than 100 employees and is organized into four subsidiaries: Agiltron-Fiberoptics, RamanSystems, SensorArrays, and Nanotrons.
Since 2001, according to the website of the government's Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) offices, Agiltron has received 132 SBIR Phase I contracts totaling $11.8 million, 44 SBIR Phase II contracts totaling $31.3 million, 31 STTR Phase I contracts totaling $2.8 million, and 13 STTR Phase II contracts totaling $9.5 million.
Among its most recent contracts, Agiltron received a $250,000 Phase II SBIR award to continue work on a low-dark-current portable neutron detector for the Department of Homeland Security. Applications for a portable neutron detector include detection of nuclear weapons and materials. Under Phase I of the contract, Agiltron demonstrated the feasibility of key fabrication steps; under Phase II, it was to develop a prototype of a boron-10 filled microfabricated solid-state neutron detector.
In 2006, Agiltron was named one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies by both Inc. magazine and Deloitte & Touche USA, ranking number 297 on Inc.'s list of the 500 fastest-growing private businesses in America and No. 7 on Deloitte's list of 50 of the fastest-growing technology companies headquartered in New England.
On its website, Oak Ridge National Laboratory touts its partnership with Agiltron, announced in 2009, to create a thermal imaging camera as a "success story." Under the partnership, Agiltron was to create a new class of visible light and infrared thermal imaging cameras based on ORNL's microcantilever technology. As the microcantilever sensors absorb radiation, they bend and/or undergo a shift in vibration frequency, or resonance characteristics. The bending and resonance changes are detected with high sensitivity by optical, capacitive, piezoresistive or other detection methods. The camera was to use little power, require no cooling, and be scalable to large high-resolution arrays with high frame rates for specialized and emerging applications such as firefighting, security, industrial processing, energy audits, and automotive and marine uses.
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