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U.S. charges 2 DHS employees with aiding Chinese espionage campaign

 UPI News logo: MainLogo UPI News 7/8/2022 Darryl Coote
Credit: St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office/Wikimedia Commons © Provided by UPI News Credit: St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office/Wikimedia Commons

July 8 (UPI) -- A federal grand jury in Brooklyn has charged two men connected to the Department of Homeland Security on accusations of being involved in a scheme organized by Beijing to spy on and harass pro-democracy activists in the United States.

The Justice Department identified the two men Thursday in a statement as Craig Miller, a 15-year employee with the department who is based in Minnesota, and Derrick Taylor, a retired DHS law enforcement agent currently working as a private investigator in Irvine, Calif.

The grand jury returned the superseding indictment Wednesday charging five people, including the two DHS employees and three others who were previously charged in March on allegations of "perpetrating a transnational repression scheme that targeted U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the PRC government," the Justice Department said. The People's Republic of China is the official name of China.

"This case involves a multifaceted campaign to silence, harass, discredit and spy on U.S. residents for exercising their freedom of speech -- aided by a current federal law enforcement officer and a private investigator who provided confidential information about U.S. residents from a restricted law enforcement database, and when confronted about their improper conduct, they lied and destroyed evidence," said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York.

According to court documents, Qiang "Jason" Sun, 40, of China, directed Fan "Frank" Liu, 62, of Jericho, N.Y., and Matthew Ziburis, 49, of Oyster Bay, N.Y., to discredit pro-democracy Chinese dissidents living in the United States by disseminating negative information about them.

The indictment states unnamed co-conspirators under Liu hired Taylor to obtain personal identification information on multiple Chinese citizens living in the United States. Prosecutors said Taylor then tasked two DHS officers, including Miller, to obtain passport information and photos as well as flight and immigration records on the targets from a restricted database.

On receiving that information, Taylor then shared it with Liu's co-conspirators. That information was then used by Liu, Ziburis and Sun to target and harass the U.S. residents, the court document states.

According to the criminal complaint, Miller and Taylor also lied about their actions to the FBI and attempted to destroy evidence.

Prosecutors accuse Miller of deleting text messages he sent Taylor from his smartphone amid interview with the FBI, while Taylor directed an unnamed co-conspirator to not hand over evidence to the U.S. government.

"When interviewed by the FBI, Taylor falsely claimed that he obtained the records in question from a friend who was using the 'Black Dark Web' -- likely a reference to the dark web," the Justice Department said.

Miller and Taylor have been charged with obstruction of justice while Taylor also faces charges of making a false statement to the FBI.

If convicted Taylor faces up to 25 years' imprisonment while Miller faces up to 20 years' imprisonment.

"Actions taken by the defendants -- two of which are current or former federal law enforcement officers -- demonstrate how the PRC seeks to stalk, intimidate and silence those who oppose it," Assistant Director Alan Kohler Jr. of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division said. "The FBI battles transnational repression because it is an evil in its own right, and an assault on the freedoms of an open society."

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