Chinese Communist Party officials, police, and prosecutors conducted a scheme with alleged co-conspirators inside the United States, including a former New York Police Department officer, who acted as illegal foreign agents as they attempted to coerce U.S. residents into returning to China, the Justice Department revealed Thursday.
Prosecutors said the illegal conspiracy was part of a Chinese Ministry of Public Security global extrajudicial repatriation effort dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt,” which seeks to force Chinese “fugitives” abroad, including in the U.S., to return to China.
The DOJ said that Hu Ji, a police officer with the Wuhan Public Security Bureau, and Tu Lan, a prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate, “traveled to the United States and directed several individuals” to engage in “unsanctioned and illegal conduct in the United States on behalf of the PRC for the purpose of coercing John Doe-1 to return to the PRC.”
The charges stated that, between 2016 and 2019, the two Chinese officials were among nine defendants working for China who “sought to achieve this objective by pressuring John Doe-1 and his family members by imprisoning and threatening to imprison John Doe-1’s family members in the PRC, transporting John Doe-1’s elderly father to the United States to convey threats to John Doe-1, and surveilling and harassing John Doe-1 and his family members, including his adult daughter, Jane Doe-2.”
Tu Lan and Zhai Yongqiang, a Chinese citizen who was living in California, were charged in the DOJ’s newly unsealed indictment, which followed more limited October charges. The DOJ contended that nine defendants “acted at the direction and under the control of PRC government officials, conducted surveillance of and engaged in a campaign to harass, stalk, and coerce certain residents of the United States to return to the PRC” and noted Tu Lan “traveled to the United States, directed the harassment campaign and ordered a co-conspirator to destroy evidence to obstruct the criminal investigation.”
Michael McMahon, a former NYPD sergeant who went on to become a private investigator in New Jersey, was arrested last year in connection to the scheme, along with alleged co-conspirators Zhu Yong and Hongru Jin in New York and Rong Jing and Zheng Congying in California. All nine co-defendants were charged with acting as agents of China and with interstate stalking. Tu Lan and Zhu Feng were separately charged with obstruction of justice as well.
“As alleged, the defendants, acting as agents of the PRC, carried out an illegal and clandestine campaign to harass and threaten targeted U.S. residents in order to force them to return to the PRC,” acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said Thursday. “Unregistered, roving agents of a foreign power are not permitted to engage in secret surveillance of U.S. residents on American soil, and their illegal conduct will be met with the full force of U.S. law.”
The superseding indictment contended that the “centerpiece” of the scheme, directed by Tu and Hu, was a plot to transport John Doe-1’s father from China to the U.S. to tell him that his family would be harmed back home if he didn’t return. Several defendants also surveilled John Doe-1 and his family, the DOJ said.
Hu Ji, Zhu Feng, and Zhu Yong worked with McMahon to “gather intelligence about and locate John Doe-1 and Jane Doe-1.” The DOJ said that co-conspirators “continued to harass and stalk the victims at the direction of the PRC government” between 2017 and 2019.
In one incident, in September 2018, Zheng Congying and another yet-unidentified co-conspirator “drove to the New Jersey residence of John Doe-1 and Jane Doe-1 and pounded on the front door” and “attempted to force open the door to the residence,” according to the DOJ. The two then put a threatening note on John Doe-1’s door, stating, “If you are willing to go back to mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”
The superseding indictment said that “after multiple months of investigative work” by McMahon, a 14-year veteran of the NYPD, “the co-conspirators planned a specific rendition operation to stalk and repatriate John Doe-1 through psychological coercion.”
The co-conspirators brought John Doe-1’s father to a house in New Jersey that belonged to Jane Doe-1’s relatives in April 2017, where McMahon “performed surveillance in the vicinity of the house” to determine John Doe-1’s whereabouts. McMahon also monitored the meeting of John Doe-1 and his father.
DOJ investigators said that in April 2017, McMahon suggested to Zhu Feng that they could “harass [John Doe-1]” and “park outside his home and let him know we are there.” Zhu Feng responded that they “can’t harass [John Doe-1] like that lol.”
Defendants also allegedly targeted John Doe-1’s adult daughter for “surveillance and online harassment.”
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Author: ThinkCivics Newswire
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