The Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against seven Chinese nationals and a US man involved in what they called an illegal US law enforcement operation targeting dissidents and other political opponents.
Authorities say the arrests are linked to Operation Fox Hunt, which China describes as an “anti-corruption” campaign to bring the fugitives back to China, but US officials say “that’s not all. history and often this is just not true. . Five Chinese nationals involved in the operation on the east and west coasts have been arrested, but officials say three other suspects managed to flee to China.
According to the unsealed criminal complaint in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday, the eight people involved are Zhu Feng, Hu Ji, Li Minjun, Hongru Jin, Zhu Yong, Michael McMahon, Rong Jing and Zheng Congying. The individuals, all of whom have been charged with conspiracy to act as an illegal agent of a foreign government, conspired to work on behalf of China in an “international campaign to threaten, harass, monitor and intimidate. », Indicates the complaint. Six of them also face charges of conspiracy to commit interstate and international harassment.
Assistant National Security Attorney General John Demers said the FBI operation “turned the fox hunt down” and “the hunters became the hunted.”
Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York also charged the eight suspects with breaking interstate harassment laws as part of a terrifying three-year campaign to “threaten, harass and monitor” an American victim, called only “John Doe 1”. in an effort to pressure him to return to China to deal with alleged violations of Chinese law.
Chinese agents used a host of illegal tactics to put pressure on John Doe and his family, including monitoring him with night vision goggles, bringing in a US private investigator to monitor the victim’s daughter and leaving behind ominous notes on his door, Acting US Attorney for Says EDNY Seth DuCharme.
John Doe has been living in the United States with his wife since September 2010 and was previously employed in China as a “city government official,” the complaint says. The purpose of the harassment, prosecutors say, was to force John Doe to return to China against that will.
“If you are ready to return to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be safe and sound,” according to DuCharme, a note reportedly sent to John Doe.
Other plans to put pressure on John Doe include bringing his elderly father from China to the United States to use “unexpected presence … to threaten and attempt to coerce the return of John Doe-1” and to target his adult daughter online, the complaint says.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said that as part of the operation, Chinese agents often leaned on the family of their prey in the United States with intimidation tactics. In one case, Wray said, agents from the People’s Republic visited the family of a target in the United States and told them that “the target had two options: quickly return to China or kill himself.”
Prosecutors also indicted Michael McMahon, a private investigator and head of the McMahon Investigative Group, alongside the seven Chinese nationals. McMahon is said to have provided Chinese nationals who hired him with private banking and travel information about John Doe and his family and helped plan “a specific operation to track down and attempt to repatriate John Doe-1,” according to a criminal complaint.
McMahon, who was assigned to watch John Doe’s father, suggested to a suspect that they could “harass” John Doe by pulling up outside his house and letting him “know we’re here,” the complaint says.
The suspect later told McMahon: ‘They definitely give you a good trip if they can get [John Doe] back to china haha.
Wray added that the multi-year investigation began when victims of harassment, harassment and blackmail by Chinese agents complained to authorities. The case was investigated by the FBI and the National Security Division in Washington DC and the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.
“Today’s accusations reflect another example of China’s continued and widespread illegal behavior,” Wray said.
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