A Chinese national pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to conspiring to commit evidence tampering in relation to an international human trafficking investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
This announcement was made by the acting U.S. attorney for the middle district of Tennessee.
Xu Zhang, 31, a New York resident, was indicted in September 2019, after conspiring with his girlfriend and co-conspirator, Gao Xing, also a Chinese national, to destroy and conceal records pertinent to a federal grand jury investigation.
According to court documents, in September 2019, Zhang visited Gao Xing in jail while she was in federal custody and the subject of an international human trafficking investigation. During the visit, Xing instructed Zhang to delete material information, including contacts and conversations from her WeChat account. WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment application that can be accessed by mobile devices, personal computers and the internet. Xing provided Zhang with a method to obtain her online WeChat account login information from her mother in China, and other details pertaining to her account. Xing indicated that the items she needed Zhang to delete would make her case or situation worse and she further instructed Zhang to change her WeChat name.
During a telephone call from the jail the next day, Zhang confirmed to Xing that he had deleted the information requested and changed Xing’s WeChat name in an attempt to delete and destroy material information related to her WeChat account.
Xing committed suicide in her cell Nov. 1, 2019, at the Daviess County (Kentucky) Detention Center.
Zhang faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 15, 2021.
IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation assisted HSI with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Beth Myers is prosecuting the case.
HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.