Three men were found guilty of stalking a New Jersey family for the Chinese government by a federal jury in New York on Tuesday. After a three-week trial, the three defendants, 55-year-old Michael McMahon, 66-year-old Zhu Yong, and 27-year-old Zheng Congying, were found guilty on conspiracy and stalking counts linked to the plot.
Also found guilty of illegally operating as an agent of the People’s Republic of China were retired NYPD sergeant McMahon and Yong. his is the first trial victory for the US Department of Justice in its fight against Operation Fox Hunt, the Chinese Communist Party’s international alleged anti-corruption campaign targeting those the Chinese government considers fugitives, typically former officials or wealthy individuals suspected of economic crimes.
The DOJ claims that three more defendants have entered guilty pleas related to their participation in the PRC-directed harassment and intimidation campaign. After several wealthy Chinese people were accused of corruption and fled the country with vast sums of money, the Chinese government began Operation Fox Hunt in 2014.
“The defendants engaged in a campaign of harassment and coercion on behalf of the PRC to force the victim’s repatriation to China from the United States, including by threatening family members,” US Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement Tuesday.
The tweet below verifies the news:
A US federal jury in New York has convicted three men of stalking a New Jersey family on behalf of the Chinese government https://t.co/AkW2xC38jV
— CNN International (@cnni) June 21, 2023
“The Department of Justice will hold accountable those who would help repressive regimes violate the fundamental freedoms of people in the U.S.,” he said. Prosecutors said the defendants plotted against a former Chinese government official who had been living in the United States for some time.
Between 2016 and 2019, the man and his family allegedly faced pressure from three persons to return to China in the form of threats, harassment, surveillance, and intimidation.
Defendants left threatening note, DOJ says
The former official and his wife were allegedly wanted by the PRC on corruption-related accusations, and the Chinese government pushed Interpol to issue an international Red Notice for them in 2015.
According to the prosecution, Yong engaged McMahon, a private investigator, to access public records and learn more about the targeted guy, his family, and his daughter. Prosecutors claim that McMahon reported back to Yong and others, including a Chinese government police officer, with information about the family.
As part of the PRC-orchestrated operation, McMahon also kept tabs on the man’s sister-in-law. In 2017, the former official’s father was flown from China apparently against his will in an effort to compel his son to return to China. The scheme also included attaching a threatening message to the former official’s home door and recording his daughter.
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“If you are willing to go back to the mainland and serve 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all fine,” the note read, according to prosecutors, which was placed at the family’s New Jersey house after defendant Zheng attempted to force open the front door. That settles it; the issue is closed.
In 2020, the United States government filed charges against eight defendants, six of whom were Chinese nationals. According to the prosecution, three additional defendants have already entered guilty pleas in connection with the conspiracy.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers, speaking at a news conference after the charges were revealed in October 2020, said the arrests were meant to send a message that the United States “will not tolerate this type of flagrant conduct on our shores.”
“Without coordination with our government, China’s repatriation squads enter the United States, surveil and locate the alleged fugitives, and deploy intimidation and other tactics to force them back into China where they would face certain imprisonment or worse following illegitimate trials,” he said at the time.
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