Nine Individuals Charged in Superseding Indictment with Conspiring to Act as Illegal Agents of the People’s Republic of China
PRC Prosecutor Allegedly Traveled to the United States, Directed Stalking of U.S. Residents and Obstructed Criminal Investigation
A superseding indictment was filed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging nine defendants with acting and conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) without prior notification to the Attorney General, and engaging and conspiring to engage in interstate and international stalking. Two defendants, Tu Lan and Zhu Feng, were also charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice arising out of the same course of conduct. The defendants, allegedly acting 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 as part of a global, concerted and extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.” In addition to the six defendants previously charged in a related criminal complaint in October 2020 and a related indictment in May 2021, the superseding indictment alleges that Tu Lan, a new defendant who was employed as a prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate, traveled to the United States, directed the harassment campaign and ordered a coconspirator to destroy evidence to obstruct the criminal investigation.
Defendants Tu Lan, Hu Ji, Li Minjun, Zhai Yongqiang and Zhu Feng remain at large. Co-defendants Michael McMahon, Zheng Congying and Zhu Yong will be arraigned in the Eastern District of New York at a later date. The name of the ninth defendant remains under seal.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Mark J. Lesko, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; George M. Crouch, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Newark Field Office (FBI); Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI); and Keith Byrne, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, New York Field Office (DSS), announced the superseding indictment.
“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. 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,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “To the extent the PRC seeks to repatriate its citizens to the PRC, its agents are required to register with the Attorney General of the United States, coordinate with U.S. officials, and adhere to U.S. laws and protocols.” Ms. Kasulis also extended her thanks and appreciation to the FBI’s Newark and Los Angeles field offices for their work on the case.
“Law enforcement officials around the world act according to a professional code of conduct,” stated Acting Attorney General Lesko. “They act to enforce the law, not to violate it in such an egregious manner. That a prosecutor and police officer not only directed and participated in a criminal scheme on U.S. soil, but then attempted to cover it up, is an affront to justice of the highest order.”
“Today's announcement serves to highlight the efforts of the FBI and its law enforcement partners to tirelessly and aggressively continue to utilize all available investigative tools and methods at their disposal to combat any illegal intrusions by the Chinese government to unilaterally undermine our economy and our free markets, stated FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Crouch, Newark Field Office. “The FBI remains committed to holding actors from the People's Republic of China accountable when they direct criminal activity on U.S. soil. Further, the FBI will vigorously defend the American ideals of freedom and the rule of law against any foreign malign influence actors.”
“HSI, with its law enforcement partners, will outfox attempts to circumvent our laws, undermine our national security, and target U.S. residents,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “The defendants will now face the true justice they denied their victims.”
“This is a perfect illustration of the domestic and global reach of the Diplomatic Security Service and our ability to partner with U.S. prosecutorial and law enforcement agencies on complex international, multi-jurisdictional cases,” stated DSS Special Agent-in-Charge Byrne. “DSS will continue to work closely with the United States Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement colleagues to detect and deter similar illegal activities that occur at home and abroad.”
In and around 2012 and 2014, the PRC government caused the International Criminal Police Organization (also known as “Interpol”), an inter-governmental law enforcement organization, to issue “Red Notices” for John Doe #1 and his wife, Jane Doe #1. According to the Red Notices, John Doe #1 was wanted by the PRC government for “embezzlement, abuse of power [and] acceptance of bribes” which carried a maximum possible penalty of death under PRC law. Jane Doe #1 was wanted by the PRC government for “accepting bribes” which carried a maximum possible penalty of life imprisonment under PRC law.
As alleged in the indictment, the nine defendants participated in an international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate John Doe #1 and his family, in order to force John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1 to return to the PRC as part of “Operation Fox Hunt,” a PRC Ministry of Public Security initiative to locate and repatriate alleged Chinese “fugitives” who had fled to foreign countries, including the United States. Instead of operating with the approval and coordination of the U.S. government, PRC government officials carrying out Operation Fox Hunt traveled to the United States and directed non-official operatives in the United States to engage in violations of U.S. criminal law. Specifically, between approximately 2016 and 2019, PRC government officials, including defendant Tu Lan, a PRC prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate, and Hu Ji, a PRC police officer with the Wuhan Public Security Bureau, traveled to the United States and directed other defendants to engage in unsanctioned and illegal conduct on behalf of the PRC to coerce the targeted victims to return to the PRC.
As further alleged in the superseding indictment, a centerpiece of this criminal scheme was an April 2017 effort, directed by PRC officials Tu Lan and Hu Ji, to transport John Doe #1’s elderly father from the PRC to the United States to convey a threat to John Doe #1 that his family in the PRC would be harmed if he did not return to the PRC. At the direction of Tu Lan, Hu Ji and others, several defendants worked to investigate, surveil and locate John Doe #1 and his wife. Tu Lan then traveled to the United States along with John Doe #1’s father and a medical doctor, Li Minjun. While in the United States, Tu Lan directed several conspirators to surveil John Doe #1 and his family so the defendants would know where to bring John Doe #1’s father to deliver the demand that John Doe #1 return to the PRC. Afterwards, Tu Lan returned to the PRC, where she continued to supervise the operation with Hu Ji and other PRC officials, directed other U.S.-based conspirators to continue stalking John Doe #1 and then ordered the return of John Doe #1’s father to the PRC after their attempts to render John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1 were unsuccessful. Zhu Feng, Hu Ji and Zhu Yong worked with McMahon, a private investigator, to gather intelligence about and locate John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1. To evade detection and frustrate a criminal investigation of their conduct, Tu Lan allegedly directed one of the conspirators to “delete all the chat content” between the conspirators. Subsequently, between 2017 and 2019, other defendants continued to harass and stalk the victims at the direction of the PRC government.
For example, on September 4, 2018, two defendants drove to the New Jersey residence of John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1 and pounded on the front door. The two defendants attempted to force open the door to the residence, then left a note at the residence that stated “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for acting as unregistered agents of the PRC, five years’ imprisonment for conspiring to act as unregistered agents of the PRC, five years’ imprisonment for interstate stalking, and five years’ imprisonment for conspiring to engage in interstate stalking. Defendants Tu Lan and Zhu Feng, who are separately charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of either of those crimes.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Craig R. Heeren, J. Matthew Haggans and Ellen H. Sise are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
People’s Republic of China
California; People’s Republic of China
Defendants Previously Indicted:
People’s Republic of China
People’s Republic of China
Queens, New York; People’s Republic of China
Mahwah, New Jersey
Brooklyn, New York
ZHU YONG, also known as “Jason Zhu”
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-265 (S-1) (PKC)