NEWS – “without comment”

Posted by: Ian (D. Withers)

New York: 3 Are Convicted of Harassing Family on Behalf of China’s Government

The defendants, including a private detective who said he did not realize he was working for an intelligence operation, pursued people living in New Jersey.

By Karen Zraick – NYT
June 20, 2023

Three men were convicted in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday of stalking a family in the New Jersey suburbs on behalf of the Chinese government.

The defendants, Michael McMahon, 55, Zhu Yong, 66, and Zheng Congying, 27, were found guilty of stalking and a related conspiracy charge. Mr. Zhu and Mr. McMahon were also found guilty of acting as unregistered foreign agents, and Mr. Zhu was convicted on a second conspiracy charge.

Speaking outside the courthouse on Tuesday, Mr. McMahon, a retired New York Police Department sergeant turned private investigator, maintained his innocence and vowed to continue fighting to clear his name.

“If I had known that they were part of a foreign government looking to harass anybody, I would have said no, and I would have called the F.B.I.,” he said.

The verdict capped a three-week trial during which prosecutors laid out a detailed case accusing the men of playing roles in Operation Fox Hunt, a decade-long effort that Chinese officials have said is aimed at repatriating fugitives. The Justice Department contends that the campaign is part of the Communist Party’s push to control Chinese nationals around the world.

The Brooklyn case was the first the Justice Department prosecuted to counter the Chinese operation, and it unfolded as tensions between the rival superpowers reached new heights, with disagreements over China’s growing military footprint and other issues. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, in Beijing over the weekend.

The Justice Department has made cases related to China a primary focus in recent years, and the office of the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Breon S. Peace, is especially attuned to what it calls “transnational repression” by foreign governments. In a statement after the verdict, Mr. Peace said that Mr. McMahon and Mr. Zhu had acted “at the direction of a hostile foreign state.”

“We will remain steadfast in exposing and undermining efforts by the Chinese government to reach across our border and perpetrate transnational repression schemes targeting victims in the United States in violation of our laws,” he said.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accused the Justice Department on Friday of “slanders and smears” related to the case, adding that transnational repression “is an allegation that best matches the U.S.’s own practices.”

The U.S. investigators are hired under false pretences by authoritarian governments to do their “dirty work,” the F.B.I. says.

Mr. McMahon, of Mahwah, N.J., could face up to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. But Lawrence Lustberg, his lawyer, said last week that federal sentencing formulas are complicated, and that he believed the maximum for all four counts Mr. McMahon was charged with would be less than three years. (Mr. McMahon was acquitted on one count.) According to prosecutors, Mr. Zhu, of Queens, could face 25 years, and Mr. Zheng, of Brooklyn, could face 10.

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