In three separate cases in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey, the Justice Department has charged 13 individuals, including members of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) security and intelligence apparatus and their agents, for alleged efforts to unlawfully exert influence in the United States for the benefit of the government of the PRC.
In the Eastern District of New York, an eight-count indictment was unsealed on Oct. 20 charging seven PRC nationals – two of whom were arrested on Oct. 20 in New York – with participating in a scheme to cause the forced repatriation of a PRC national residing in the United States. The defendants are accused of conducting surveillance of and engaging in a campaign to harass and coerce a U.S. resident to return to the PRC as part of an international extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging two People’s PRC intelligence officers with attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution in the Eastern District of New York. The defendants remain at large.
In the District of New Jersey, an indictment was unsealed today charging four Chinese nationals, including three Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officers, in connection with a long-running intelligence campaign targeting individuals in the United States to act as agents of the PRC.
“As these cases demonstrate, the government of China sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our judicial system that protects those rights. They did not succeed,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the Rule of Law upon which our democracy is based. We will continue to fiercely protect the rights guaranteed to everyone in our country. And we will defend the integrity of our institutions.”
“The actions announced today take place against a backdrop of malign activity from the government of the People’s Republic of China that includes espionage, attempts to disrupt our justice system, harassment of individuals, and ongoing efforts to steal sensitive U.S. technology,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “The men and women of the Department of Justice will continue to defend the United States, our institutions, and our people from foreign threats that violate the law — no matter what form they take.”
“These indictments of PRC intelligence officers and government officials – for trying to obstruct a U.S. trial of a Chinese company, masquerading as university professors to steal sensitive information, and trying to strong-arm a victim into returning to China – again expose the PRC’s outrageous behavior within our own borders,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI, working with our partners and allies, will continue to throw the full weight of our counterintelligence and law enforcement authorities into stopping the Chinese government’s crimes against our businesses, universities, and Chinese-American communities.”
“These cases highlight the threat the PRC government poses to our institutions and the rights of people in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “We will not tolerate these brazen operations: the harassment and attempted repatriation by force of individuals living in the U.S.; the effort to corrupt our judicial system; and the attempt to recruit agents for the PRC under the cover of a front academic organization. Countering such threats is a cornerstone of the mission of the National Security Division.”
United States v. Quanzhong An, et al., Eastern District of New York
An eight-count indictment was unsealed on Oct. 20 in Brooklyn charging a total of seven nationals of the PRC – Quanzhong An, 55, of Roslyn, New York; Guangyang An, 34, of Roslyn, New York; Tian Peng, 38, of the PRC; Chenghua Chen of the PRC; Chunde Ming of the PRC; Xuexin Hou, 52, of the PRC; and Weidong Yuan, 55, of the PRC – with participating in a scheme to cause the forced repatriation of a PRC national residing in the United States. The lead defendant, Quanzhong An, allegedly acted at the direction and under the control of various officials with the PRC’s government’s Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection (Provincial Commission) – including Peng, Chen, Ming, and Hou – to conduct surveillance of and engage in a campaign to harass and coerce a U.S. resident to return to the PRC as part of an international extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.”
Quanzhong An and Guangyang An were arrested on Thursday and were arraigned that afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes Jr. The remaining defendants remain at large.
“As alleged, the defendants engaged in a unilateral and uncoordinated law enforcement action on U.S. soil on behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China, in an effort to cause the forced repatriation of a U.S. resident to China,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “The United States will firmly counter such outrageous violations of national sovereignty and prosecute individuals who act as illegal agents of foreign states.”
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants participated in an international campaign to threaten and intimidate John Doe-1, a resident of United States, and his family to force John Doe-1 to return to the PRC. These efforts were part of “Operation Fox Hunt,” an initiative by the PRC’s Ministry of Public Security to locate and repatriate alleged fugitives who flee to foreign countries, including the United States. The PRC government has targeted these alleged fugitives and their families to compel cooperation with the PRC government and self-repatriation to the PRC. The PRC government has taken such law enforcement actions on U.S. soil in a unilateral manner without approval, of or coordination with the U.S. government.
Quanzhong An, who is a businessman operating in Queens, New York, and the majority shareholder of a hotel in Flushing, acted as the primary U.S.-based liaison for the Provincial Commission’s targeting of John Doe-1 and his family members, including his son, John Doe-2, both in the United States and in the PRC. As part of the scheme, various PRC-based conspirators forced a relative in the PRC (John Doe-3) to travel from the PRC to the United States in September 2018 to meet with John Doe-2 and convey threats that were intended to coerce John Doe-1’s return to the PRC. Yuan – John Doe-3’s superior at the PRC’s State Administration of Taxation – escorted John Doe-3 from the PRC to the United States, under the guise of a visit with a tour group.
PRC-based defendants and coconspirators also engaged in a pattern of harassment targeting John Doe-1’s family members. In November 2017, Hou wrote John Doe-2 warning him that “coming back and turning yourself in is the only way out.” Hou further threatened that “avoidance and wishful thinking will only result in severe legal punishments.” The PRC government also harassed John Doe-1 and John Doe-2 through the filing of a lawsuit in New York State court, alleging that John Doe-1 had stolen funds from his former PRC based employer and that John Doe-2 had knowledge of and benefitted from his father’s scheme.
In a series of recorded meetings in 2020, 2021, and 2022, Quanzhong An repeatedly met with John Doe-2 and attempted to persuade John Doe-2 to cause the return of John Doe-1 to the PRC. In these meetings, Quanzhong An acknowledged that he is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which enforces the rules and regulations of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) abroad. At various times, he attributed his instructions to Chen, Ming, and Peng and acknowledged that the Fox Hunt operation was motivated by the PRC government’s need to “save their faces” and repatriate as many fugitives as possible.
Quanzhong An admitted that he was acting as an agent of the Provincial Commission to increase his standing in the PRC. During his meetings with John Doe-2, Quanzhong An repeatedly transmitted threats on behalf of the PRC government. If John Doe-1 did not return, the PRC government would “keep pestering you, [and] make your daily life uncomfortable,” in addition to actions to “target and monitor” John Doe-1’s relatives in the PRC. On another occasion, he stated that “they will definitely find new ways to bother you” and “it is definitely true that all of your relatives will be involved.”
As set forth in the detention memorandum, Quanzhong An met with John Doe-2 again on Sept. 29, 2022. During this meeting, Quanzhong An pressed for John Doe-1 to execute an agreement to return to the PRC in advance of the CCP’s 20th National Congress, which began on Oct. 16, 2022. As part of such agreement, Quanzhong An sought a written confession from John Doe-1, which would be submitted directly to the PRC government.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of acting as agents of the PRC, Quanzhong An faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The money laundering conspiracy charge against Quanzhong An and Guangyang An carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The remaining charges, including conspiring to act as agents of the PRC and conspiring to commit interstate and international stalking, carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander A. Solomon, Sara K. Winik, and Antoinette N. Rangel and Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Morris of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters.
United States v. Dong He, et al., Eastern District of New York
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging two People’s Republic of China (PRC) intelligence officers with attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution in the Eastern District of New York. The defendants remain at large.
According to court documents, Dong He, aka Guochun He and aka Jacky He, and Zheng Wang, aka Zen Wang, allegedly orchestrated a scheme to steal files and other information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York related to the ongoing federal criminal investigation and prosecution of a global telecommunications company (Company-1) based in the PRC, including by paying a $41,000 Bitcoin bribe to a U.S. government employee who the defendants believed had been recruited to work for the PRC, but who in fact was a double agent working on behalf of the FBI.
“Today’s complaint underscores the unrelenting efforts of the PRC government to undermine the rule of law,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “As alleged, the case involves an effort by PRC intelligence officers to obstruct an ongoing criminal prosecution by making bribes to obtain files from this Office and sharing them with a global telecommunications company that is a charged defendant in an ongoing prosecution. We will always act decisively to counteract criminal acts that target our system of justice.”
Dong He and Zheng Wang are charged with attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution of Company-1 in federal district court in the Eastern District of New York. Defendant He also is charged with money laundering based upon a bribe payment of $41,000 in Bitcoin made in furtherance of the scheme.
According to the complaint, the defendants are PRC intelligence officers conducting foreign intelligence operations targeting the United States, on behalf of the PRC government and for the benefit of Company-1. Starting in 2019, they directed an employee at a U.S. government law enforcement agency (GE-1), whom they believed they had recruited as an asset, to steal confidential information about the criminal prosecution of Company-1 in order to interfere with that prosecution. In actuality, GE-1 was working as a double agent on behalf of the FBI.
In September 2021, the defendants tasked GE-1 with reporting about meetings that GE-1 was purportedly having with prosecutors in Brooklyn at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. In written communications, the defendants said they were particularly interested in knowing which Company-1 employees had been interviewed by the government and in obtaining a description of the prosecutors’ evidence, witness list and trial strategy.
In October 2021, GE-1 used an encrypted messaging program to send the defendants a single page from a purported internal strategy memorandum from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York regarding the Company-1 case. The document appeared to be classified as “SECRET” and to discuss a plan to charge and arrest two current Company-1 employees living in the PRC. Dong He responded that the document was “exactly what I am waiting for” and that he was “waiting for the feedback from some guys” about whether there were any questions about the document. Dong He then paid GE-1 approximately $41,000 in Bitcoin for stealing that document.
GE-1 also asked the defendants for any feedback about the “SECRET” document. In November 2021, Dong He stated that “[Company-1] didn’t give me specifically feedback now yet, but they are obviously interested in it, and my boss and they need further information.” Dong He further told GE-1 that “[Company-1] obviously will be interested” in GE-1 stealing another part of the strategy memorandum, and “maybe will offer more” for that information. In December 2021, in response to a further request by GE-1 for feedback or guidance from Company-1 about “what they want me to get,” Dong He explained that “they didn’t give me any positive feedback yet and demanded to communicate with you directly.” Dong He said that he refused Company-1’s request to speak directly to GE-1 because “it’s too dangerous.”
The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Dong He faces up to 40 years of imprisonment and Wang faces up to 20 years of imprisonment.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander A. Solomon and Meredith A. Arfa and Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
United States v. Wang Lin et al., District of New Jersey
A federal indictment was unsealed today charging four Chinese nationals, including three Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officers, in connection with a long-running intelligence campaign targeting individuals in the United States to act as agents of the PRC.
As alleged in the indictment, from at least 2008 to 2018, Wang Lin, 59; Bi Hongwei, age unknown; Dong Ting, aka Chelsea Dong, 40; Wang Qiang, 55, and others engaged in a wide-ranging and systematic effort to target and recruit individuals to act on behalf of the PRC in the United States with requests to provide information, materials, equipment, and assistance to the Chinese government in ways that would further China’s intelligence objectives. These recruitment efforts included targeting professors at universities, a former federal law enforcement and state homeland security official, and others to act on behalf of, and as agents of, the Chinese government.
As part of the conspiracy, MSS intelligence officers Wang Lin, Dong Ting, and others used a purported academic institute at Ocean University of China – referred to as the Institute for International Studies (IIS) – as cover for their clandestine intelligence activities. Acting under cover as the purported director of the IIS, Wang Lin, in coordination with other MSS operatives operating under the guise of academics at the IIS, targeted professors at American universities and others in the United States with access to sensitive information and equipment.
According to the indictment unsealed today, MSS intelligence officers Wang Lin, Bi, Dong, and others, acting for and on behalf of the MSS and the Chinese government, systematically targeted United States persons, including but not limited to a coconspirator who was a resident of the state of New Jersey and a second individual who was a former federal law enforcement officer and state homeland security official and a professor at an American university.
Among other things, the conspiracy targeted the second individual by inviting the individual in 2008 and 2018 on all-expenses-paid trips to China sponsored by the IIS. During those trips, Wang Lin, Dong, and others sought to recruit this individual as a human source, requesting that the individual provide sensitive fingerprint technology, information, and assistance with stopping planned protests along the 2008 Olympic Games torch route in the United States, which the conspirators expressed would be “embarrassing” to China. The individual also was requested to sign a contract for purported consulting services with a Chinese company whose “core value” was the “national interest and national security” of China, with an objective to “protect the national interest and Chinese enterprises’ overseas interest[s]” and to “build sources and channels to collect security information.” Recognizing Wang Lin, Dong, and others as Chinese intelligence officers, the individual refused these requests and reported them to law enforcement.
The conspiracy also targeted the coconspirator in New Jersey by tasking the coconspirator to take specific action in the United States in furtherance of the MSS’ intelligence objective. Wang Qiang coordinated a meeting in 2016 between the coconspirator, Wang Lin, and Bi Hongwei in the Bahamas, at which time MSS intelligence officers Wang Lin and Bi directed the coconspirator to obtain U.S. currency and provide it to a designated individual in New Jersey. The coconspirator returned to New Jersey and did as Wang Lin and BI instructed. Wang Qiang then visited the coconspirator in New Jersey, at which time Wang Qiang and the coconspirator discussed in detail their and others’ activities taken on behalf of the Chinese government in the United States.
Lin, Bi, Dong and Qiang, all are nationals and residents of the People’s Republic of China. They each are charged in the indictment with conspiracy to act in the United States as agents of a foreign government, namely, the People’s Republic of China, without prior notification to the Attorney General of the United States, as required by law, and to direct such unlawful action by others in the United States. The conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Brendan Day, Attorney in Charge of the Trenton Branch Office, and Joyce M. Malliet, Chief of the Office’s National Security Unit.