The Justice Department said that a federal grand jury has indicted a current U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent and a former agent in connection with an alleged Chinese government-sponsored scheme to stalk, harass and spy on U.S.-based Chinese critics of Beijing.
According to the indictment, a 15-year DHS employee, Craig Miller, and a retired DHS agent working as a private investigator, Derrick Taylor, are accused of accessing and providing information about the Chinese activists from a restricted government database to two other individuals who then used the records to target the victims.
In June, both Miller and Taylor were arrested, and each faces one count of obstruction of justice. There is also an additional charge against Taylor of making a false statement to the FBI in connection with the investigation.
Fan “Frank” Liu, Matthew Ziburis and Qiang “Jason” Sun are three others indicted in the case, who allegedly carried out “the transnational repression scheme to target U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored” by the Chinese government, such as advocacy for democracy in China, the Justice Department said.
The three are facing multiple criminal charges, including conspiring to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification. Liu and Ziburis are also charged with acting as agents of the Chinese government without registering with the Justice Department, while Liu and Sun are charged with conspiring to bribe a federal official, as reported.
In March, Liu and Ziburis were arrested, while Sun, who is a Chinese citizen and allegedly orchestrated the scheme, remains at large.
Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement: “We will defend the rights of people in the United States to engage in free speech and political expression, including views the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government wants to silence. As charged, these individuals aided agents of a foreign government in seeking to suppress dissenting voices who have taken refuge here.”
According to the indictment, the aim of the conspiracy was to “discredit” pro-democracy Chinese dissidents living in New York City, San Francisco and Indiana by spreading derogatory information about them.
Allegedly, in one instance, Liu paid a New York-based private investigator to bribe an Internal Revenue Service agent into releasing the federal tax records of one dissident. In order to discredit him, the goal was to publicly disclose the victim’s potential tax liabilities, but the attempt failed. No bribe was paid, as the private investigator was cooperating with law enforcement.
In another case, allegedly, the conspirators planned to demolish the artwork of a California-based Chinese sculptor critical of the Chinese government. In the spring of 2021, the dissident artist’s sculpture depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “coronavirus molecule” was destroyed.
An unidentified co-conspirator, to target the dissidents, allegedly retained Taylor, the retired DHS agent, to obtain confidential personal information about multiple Chinese activists, including their passport information, passport photos, flight records and immigration records.
Miller and another DHS agent were enlisted by Taylor, to obtain the information and then passed on the records to the co-conspirator.
According to the indictment, “Liu, Ziburis and Sun used this information to target and harass the PRC dissidents, while acting on behalf of the PRC government.”
Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, responded by email to a VOA request for comment: “I’m not aware of the specific situation. I would like to stress in principle that the Chinese side always asks overseas Chinese citizens to comply with the host country’s laws and regulations. We firmly oppose acts by the U.S. that groundlessly malign and smear China.”