US charges Chinese prosecutor Tu Lan, eight others for brazen 'Fox Hunt' threatsWorld | 23 Jul 2021 7:05 am
A prosecutor from China, a former New York City Police Department detective sergeant and seven other people were indicted Thursday on charges related to a brazen campaign to stalk and harass U.S. residents in an effort to get one of them to return to China, CNBC reports.
The new indictment alleges that the nine defendants acted at the direction of officials from the People’s Republic of China, in an effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt,” to repatriate the target from the United States.
The plan included threatening one of the two New Jersey residents who were targets of the campaign with harm to one of the target’s family if he did not return to China, where he purportedly was wanted by the government for accepting bribes.
The New Jersey residents’ adult daughter also was the target of stalking and harassment, the indictment says.
One of the defendants, Tu Lan, was employed as a prosecutor with the Hanyang People’s Procuratorate.
Lan “traveled to the United States, directed the harassment campaign and ordered a co-conspirator to destroy evidence to obstruct the criminal investigation,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, which is prosecuting the case.
Lan and another defendant, Zhai Yongqiang, were added to an existing prosecution of six others previously charged in the case.
One of those prior defendants is Michael McMahon, a Mahwah, New Jersey, resident and retired NYPD detective sergeant who had become a private investigator.
McMahon, 53, is accused of working with several other defendants in the case to gather intelligence about and locate two people, identified as John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2, after earlier efforts to get them to return to China failed.
McMahon didn’t know he was acting on behalf of the Chinese government as he performed work as a private investigator, said his attorney Lawrence Lustberg.
“In fact, far from having conspired with anyone, or of having committed any crimes, Mike was himself a victim of the Chinese, who deceived and duped him and never told him that he was working for them, as opposed to for a construction company – which is what they said,” the attorney said. “Rather than accusing him, our government should have protected him.”
All the defendants are accused of acting and conspiring to act as illegal agents of China without prior notification to the U.S. attorney general, and with engaging in and conspiring in interstate and international stalking.
“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 acting U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn Jacquelyn Kasulis.
The indictments were announced hours after ProPublica published an article about Operation Fox Hunt and its targeting of the individuals in New Jersey.
The news outlet noted that Operation Fox Hunt and a program called Operation Sky Net, which were both launched by China in 2014, “claim to have caught more than 8,000 international fugitives.”
“The targets are not murderers or drug lords, but Chinese public officials and businesspeople accused — justifiably and not — of financial crimes,” ProPublica wrote.
“Some of them have set up high-rolling lives overseas with lush mansions and millions in offshore accounts. But others are dissidents, whistleblowers or relatively minor figures swept up in provincial conflicts.”
ProPublica reported that McMahon is from a family of cops and firefighters, and during 14 years of service at the NYPD had won the department’s second-highest honor, the Police Combat Cross, and later retired on partial disability related to ailments from working at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.