Chinese prosecutor, ex-NYPD police officer charged with stalking and harassing US citizens on behalf of China
A Chinese soldier stands in front of the Tiananmen Gate in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing.
A Chinese prosecutor, a former New York Police Department detective sergeant and seven others were charged Thursday with a brazen campaign to persecute and harass US citizens to persuade one of them to return to China.
The new indictment alleges that the nine defendants acted on the orders of officials from the People's Republic of China in an attempt known as "Operation Fox Hunt" to repatriate the target from the United States.
The plan was to threaten one of the two New Jersey residents targeted by the campaign with harm to one of the target's families if he did not return to China, where he was allegedly wanted by the government for accepting bribes .
The adult daughter of New Jersey residents was also a target for stalking and harassment, the indictment states.
One of the defendants, Tu Lan, was employed as a prosecutor at the Hanyang People's Procuratorate.
Lan "traveled to the United States, led the harassment campaign and ordered a co-conspirator to destroy evidence to obstruct the criminal investigation," according to a press release from the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn prosecuting the case.
Lan and one other defendant, Zhai Yongqiang, were added to an existing charge against six other defendants.
One of these previous defendants is Michael McMahon, a Mahwah, New Jersey resident and retired NYPD detective sergeant who had become a private investigator.
McMahon, 53, is charged with collaborating with several other defendants in the case to gather and locate information on two people identified as John Doe # 1 and Jane Doe # 2 after previous efforts to find them to move to return to China had failed.
Little did McMahon know he was acting on behalf of the Chinese government since he was a private investigator, his lawyer Lawrence Lustberg said.
"In fact, Mike was far from conspiring or committing crimes with anyone, but was himself a victim of the Chinese who betrayed and betrayed him and never told him he was working for them, unlike a construction company." – That's what they said, "said the lawyer." Instead of accusing him, our government should have protected him. "
All of the accused are charged with acting and conspiring to act as illegal agents of China and engaging in, and conspiring to engage in, interstate and international stalking without prior notification to the US Attorney General.
"Unregistered wandering agents of a foreign power are not allowed to participate in the clandestine surveillance of US citizens on American soil, and their illegal behavior will be countered with the full force of US law," said acting US attorney in Brooklyn Jacquelyn Kasulis.
The charges were announced hours after ProPublica published an article about Operation Fox Hunt and its targeted attacks on people in New Jersey.
The news agency noted that Operation Fox Hunt and a program called Operation Sky Net, both launched by China in 2014, "claim to have captured more than 8,000 international refugees".
"The targets are not murderers or drug barons, but Chinese officials and business people who – rightly and not – are accused of financial crime," wrote ProPublica.
"Some of them have made a living abroad with lavish mansions and millions of offshore accounts. But others are dissidents, whistleblowers, or relatively small personalities involved in provincial conflicts."
ProPublica reported that McMahon came from a family of police officers and firefighters and had won the division's second highest award, the Police Combat Cross, during his 14 years of service with the NYPD and later due to a partial disability due to complaints from working at Ground Zero in retired after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
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In 2012 and 2014, the Chinese government led the international police agency Interpol to issue so-called red ads for the Does, accusing John Doe of embezzlement, abuse of power and taking bribes. These charges have the highest possible death penalty under Chinese law.
McMahon was hired by one of the defendants, Chinese government official Hu Ji, around September 2016, the indictment said, and later sent that Ji information including Jane Doe's international travel dates, date of birth, social security number, and bank details .
"After several months of investigative work" by McMahon, "the co-conspirators planned a specific rendition operation to persecute John Doe # 1 through psychological coercion and repatriate him to his home country," the indictment reads.
Prosecutors said that on instructions from Lan and Li, John Doe # 1's elderly father was transported to the United States from China in April 2017 "to convey threats to John Doe # 1 that his family would be injured in the PRC would". "with imprisonment or threats if he does not return to the PRC."
"Tu Lan then traveled to the United States with the father of John Doe # 1 and a doctor, Li Minjun," the press release said. "While in the United States, Tu Lan has directed several conspirators to monitor John Doe # 1 and his family so the defendants will know where to take John Doe # 1's father to meet the demand that John Doe # 1 be in the PRC returns. "
As part of that effort, the indictment states, McMahon has been monitoring a home owned by Doe's relatives.
In September 2018, prosecutors said two of the defendants drove to Does's residence in New Jersey and "pounded on the door," prosecutors said.
“The two defendants tried to force open the door to the residence and then left a note on the residence that said, 'If you are ready to return to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife will and will Your children are fine. That settles the matter! ", Said the prosecutors.
Lan, Ji and two other defendants in the new replacing indictment, Li Minjun, Yongqiang and Zhu Feng, will remain at large, according to prosecutors.
Three other defendants, McMahon, Zheng Congying and Zhu Yong, will later be tried in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The name of the ninth defendant is under lock and key.