DOJ issues 13 charges, 2 arrests against individuals acting for China

by ian

Ian Patrick, FISM News


The Department of Justice is taking action against multiple Chinese nationals who the DOJ alleges have unlawfully exerted “influence in the United States for the benefit of the government of the PRC.”

In a press conference on Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced three different actions taken by the DOJ against Chinese nationals. These actions include two indictments and one complaint against a total of 13 individuals.

Garland said all three cases show that “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,” he added.

The first action Garland spoke on was the criminal complaint in which two Chinese intelligence officers were charged with attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution in the Eastern District of New York.

Unsealed at a federal court in Brooklyn on Monday, the complaint charges Dong He (a.k.a. Guochun He or Jacky He) and Zheng Wang (a.k.a. Zen Wang) with hatching a scheme to steal files and other pertinent information related to the ongoing federal criminal investigation and prosecution of a Chinese-based telecommunications company.

Dong He is also charged with money laundering based upon a $41,000 bribe in Bitcoin used in conjunction with the intelligence scheme.

The telecommunications company is called “Company-1” in the DOJ’s official documents, but reports suggest that this company is actually Huawei. In 2020, the DOJ charged Huawei with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and has since been pursuing that indictment.

Starting in 2019, the two Chinese nationals reportedly attempted to get an employee at a U.S. government agency, known in the complaint as “GE-1,” to steal the confidential information. GE-1 was actually working for the FBI, and fed the two pieces of information that Dong He reportedly said was “exactly what I am waiting for.”

Garland confirmed that these documents “were prepared by the United States government for the purpose of this investigation and did not reveal actual meetings, communications, or strategies.” GE-1 was paid $41,000 worth of Bitcoin for the information.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said during the press conference that this case “exposes the interconnection between PRC intelligence officers and Chinese companies, and it demonstrates, once again, why such companies — especially in the telecommunications industry — should not be trusted to securely handle our sensitive personal data and communications.”

If the two are convicted,  Dong He faces up to 40 years of imprisonment and Wang faces up to 20 years of imprisonment.

The second action Garland discussed was an indictment unsealed on Monday in New Jersey charging four Chinese nationals with establishing an intelligence campaign to recruit U.S. citizens to work on behalf of the Chinese government.

The DOJ says Wang Lin, Bi Hongwei, Dong Ting (a.k.a. Chelsea Dong), and Wang Qiang were part of “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.”

Targets included university professors and a former federal law enforcement and state homeland security official. Wang Lin, Bi, and Dong were also identified as Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officers.

This operation went on from 2008 all the way to 2018 and involved using “the cover of a purported Chinese academic institute” to carry out their goals according to Garland.

“Those directives included attempts to procure technology and equipment from the United States and to have it shipped to China,” Garland said.

“They also included attempts to stop protected First Amendment activities — protests here in the United States — which would have been embarrassing to the Chinese government.”

If convicted, the accused face a maximum five-year prison sentence as well as a maximum fine of $250,000.

The final action mentioned by Garland was an eight-count indictment unsealed on October 20 in Eastern New York. This indictment charged seven Chinese nationals “with participating in a scheme to cause the forced repatriation of a PRC national residing in the United States,” according to the DOJ.

The individuals named in the indictment are Quanzhong An, Guangyang An, Tian Peng, Chenghua Chen, Chunde Ming, Xuexin Hou, and Weidong Yuan. Quanzhong and Guangyang An were residents of Roslyn, New York and were also the two individuals arrested by the DOJ. The rest of the charged individuals reside in China.

Performing for China’s Ministry of Public Security under the effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt,” the individuals attempted to coerce an individual known as John Doe-1 to return to China. The coercion included threats against John Doe-1 and his family.

Garland said the coercion attempts even included having John Doe-1’s nephew travel “from China to the United States to convey the PRC’s threats to the victim’s son.”

Evidence of the effort seems to suggest it began in 2017 and lasted all the way until October 2022. The victim was targeted because it is believed that he is an alleged fugitive who fled China and came to the U.S.

If convicted of acting as an agent on behalf of China, Quanzhong An could spend a maximum of 10 years in prison. If convicted on another charge of money laundering, Quanzhong An and Guangyang An could be sentenced to a maximum 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 DOJ writes.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen commented on the cases during the briefing, saying that all three “highlight … the threat individuals acting at the direction of the PRC government pose to our institutions and to the rights of people in the United States.”

“We will not tolerate these actions,” Olsen commented.