Nine people have been indicted on charges of operating in the United States as illegal agents of China.
The group allegedly "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," according to a Justice Department press release.
"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," said Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.
Those charged are Tu Lan, 50, Zhai Yongqiang, 46, Hu Ji, 46, and Li Minjun, 65, all from China; Zhu Feng, 34, a Chinese national residing in Queens, New York; Michael McMahon, 53, of Mahwah, New Jersey; Zheng Congying, 24, of Brooklyn, New York; and Zhu Yong, aka Jason Zhu, 64, of Norwich, Connecticut. The name of the ninth defendant remains under seal.
According to the press release, the suspects are accused of acting "at the direction and under the control of" Chinese officials to try to force the return to China of two individuals identified only as John Doe #1 and wife Jane Doe #1.
The statement said that around 2012 and 2014 the Chinese government had caused the international police organization Interpol to issue "Red Notices" alerting police around the world that the two were wanted in China. for embezzlement and accepting bribes -- crimes which carry maximum penalties of death and life in prison respectively.
The nine subsequently "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," Justice officials said.