The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury returned an indictment on five individuals who were involved in a scheme to silence critics of China in the United States.
Two of the five indicted worked for the Department of Homeland Security at one time.
The group planned to discredit pro-democracy PRC dissidents in the United States through spying and digging up dirt on them.
They also planned on destroying artwork that was critical of the PRC.
According to the DOJ, they hired Derrick Taylor, a retired DHS law enforcement agent who presently works as a private investigator, to get confidential materials. This included sensitive personal identification information.
Yesterday, a grand jury returned an indictment in federal court in Brooklyn charging five defendants with various crimes pertaining to a transnational repression scheme orchestrated on behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)….
Three of the defendants—Fan “Frank” Liu, Matthew Ziburis, and Qiang “Jason” Sun—allegedly perpetrated in the transnational repression scheme to target U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the PRC government, such as advocating for democracy in the PRC. Among other items, the defendants plotted to destroy the artwork of a PRC national residing in Los Angeles, California that was critical of the PRC government, and planted surveillance equipment in the artist’s workplace and car to spy on him from the PRC. Liu and Ziburis were arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint in March 2022, while Sun remains at large.
There are two new defendants charged in the scheme, Craig Miller and Derrick Taylor. Miller is a 15-year employee of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), currently assigned as a Deportation Officer to DHS’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Taylor is a retired DHS law enforcement agent who presently works as a private investigator in Irvine, California. The charges against Miller and Taylor pertain to their alleged obstruction of justice, including by destroying evidence, after they were approached by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and asked about their procurement and dissemination of sensitive and confidential information from a restricted federal law enforcement database regarding U.S.-based dissidents from the PRC. This information was used by Liu and Sun in the transnational repression scheme. Both Miller and Taylor were arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint in June 2022….
As set forth in court filings, Liu and Ziburis operated under Sun’s direction and control to discredit pro-democracy PRC dissidents residing in the United States—including in New York City, California, and Indiana—by spying on them and disseminating negative information about them. For example, at Sun’s direction, Liu paid a private investigator in Queens to bribe an Internal Revenue Service employee to obtain the federal tax returns of one of the dissidents. The private investigator was cooperating with law enforcement, and no Internal Revenue Service employee received a bribe payment. The defendants planned to publicly disclose the dissident’s potential tax liabilities to discredit him. The co-conspirators also made plans to destroy the artwork of a dissident artist whose work is critical of the PRC government, and the artist’s sculpture depicting PRC President Xi Jinping as a coronavirus molecule was demolished in the Spring of 2021. Sun paid both Liu and Ziburis for these efforts to stalk, harass, and surveil dissidents residing in the United States.
As part of their efforts, Liu, Ziburis, and Sun electronically spied on the pro-democracy activists. For example, posing as an art dealer interested in purchasing the artwork of the dissident artist, Ziburis secretly installed surveillance cameras and GPS devices at the dissident’s workplace and in his car. While in the PRC, Sun watched the live video feed and location data from these devices. Liu, Ziburis, and Sun made similar plans to install surveillance equipment at the residences and on the vehicles of two other dissidents. Liu and Ziburis planned to gain access to one such residence by posing as a member of an international sports committee.
Liu, Ziburis, and Sun also planned to interview the dissidents in mock media sessions, using the cover of Liu’s purported media organization. Sun provided outlines for these fake interviews and designed questions to elicit answers that were intended to humiliate or discredit the dissidents. Liu, Ziburis, and Sun intended that audio or video clips of these statements could be used in PRC propaganda materials targeting the dissidents.
One of Liu’s co-conspirators (Co-conspirator) retained Taylor to obtain confidential and sensitive personal identification information regarding multiple PRC dissidents residing in the United States, including passport information, passport photos, flight records, and immigration records. In turn, Taylor tasked two DHS law enforcement officers, including Miller, to obtain these records. Miller and the other DHS agent obtained the information from a restricted federal law enforcement database and improperly provided the records to Taylor, who then passed the information to the Co-conspirator. Liu, Ziburis, and Sun used this information to target and harass the PRC dissidents, while acting on behalf of the PRC government.
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