Five Indicted for Spying and Harassing Chinese Dissidents Living in the US
WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in New York indicted five men Thursday on charges of spying and carrying out political repression against U.S. citizens who were critics of the Chinese government.
One of the men indicted is a current federal law enforcement officer and another is a retired federal law enforcement officer.
The charges include obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence after FBI agents investigated whether the men were using a law enforcement database to track down U.S.-based Chinese dissidents.
The Justice Department accused the indicted men of perpetrating a “transnational repression scheme” for the Chinese government to spy on and harass dissidents in the United States.
The Chinese embassy in Washington denied responsibility and expressed concern the U.S. government was maligning the People’s Republic of China.
The Justice Department identified the two law enforcement officers who were indicted as Craig Miller, a Department of Homeland Security deportation officer in Minnesota for the past 15 years, and Derrick Taylor, a retired Homeland Security agent more recently employed as a private investigator in California.
The other defendants are Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, of Jericho, New York; Matthew Ziburis, 49, of Oyster Bay, New York; and Qiang “Jason” Sun, 40, of China.
Among crimes for which they are accused, they allegedly plotted to destroy artwork by a Chinese artist living in Los Angeles who was critical of the Chinese government. The defendants also allegedly planted surveillance equipment in the artist’s workplace and car to spy on him.
The FBI already arrested Liu and Ziburis but Sun remains at large.
Liu and Sun are charged with conspiring to bribe a federal official to obtain tax returns of a pro-democracy Chinese activist.
The indictment says one of Liu’s co-conspirators hired Taylor as a private investigator to obtain the personal identification information of multiple Chinese dissidents. The information included passport, photo, flight and immigration records.
Taylor and Miller allegedly obtained the information from a restricted Homeland Security database, then shared it with Liu’s co-conspirator, the indictment says. Liu, Ziburis and Sun used the information to target and harass the U.S. residents, according to the Justice Department.
When confronted by the FBI about their search of the database, Miller and Taylor lied, court documents say.
In addition, Miller allegedly deleted text messages with Taylor from his phone while being interviewed by the FBI. Taylor is accused of telling a co-conspirator to conceal any evidence from investigators.
The FBI says Taylor falsely claimed he obtained records on the Chinese dissidents from a friend who was using the “black dark web,” which was likely a reference to the dark web.
“As alleged, this case involves a multifaceted campaign to silence, harass, discredit and spy on U.S. residents for exercising their freedom of speech – aided by a current federal law enforcement officer and a private investigator who provided confidential information about U.S. residents from a restricted law enforcement database, and when confronted about their improper conduct, lied and destroyed evidence,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
“This office will always work closely with our law enforcement partners to root out corrupt officials in all levels of government and will prosecute those who act on behalf of a hostile foreign state to target the free speech of U.S. residents on American soil.”
Tom can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @tramstack.
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