A federal grand jury in Brooklyn, N.Y. indicted five men, including two with ties to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in a “transnational repression scheme” for allegedly committing various crimes in an effort to silence Chinese dissidents living in the United States.
Defendants Craig Miller and Derrick Taylor were named in a superseding indictment Thursday after they had been arrested in June following a criminal complaint. Miller, a deportation officer working with DHS’s Emergency Relief Operations in Minneapolis, Minn., and Taylor, a retired DHS agent working as a private investigator in Irvine, Calif., were charged with obstruction of justice, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
The pair allegedly destroyed evidence after FBI agents had questioned them over “procurement and dissemination of sensitive and confidential information from a restricted federal law enforcement database” regarding dissidents from China.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen said, “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. The defendants include two sworn law enforcement officers who chose to forsake their oaths and violate the law. This indictment is the next step in holding all of these defendants responsible for their crimes.”
In addition to Miller and Taylor, arrests were made in March pertaining to the criminal complaints made against Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, and Matthew Ziburis, 49, both residents of New York. Qiang “Jason” Sun, a 40-year-old resident of China and the fifth individual named in the indictment, remained at large at the time of this posting. They were charged with conspiring to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification as they worked to discredit dissidents living in New York City, California and Indiana.
Ziburis and Liu were said to be working under the direction of Sun as they worked on behalf of the Chinese government. U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace explained, “As alleged, 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, lied and destroyed evidence.”
Some of the confidential information included flight records, photographs and passport information. Miller had allegedly deleted messages with Taylor from his phone and Taylor had told another alleged co-conspirator to withhold evidence from investigators. According to the DOJ, Miller admitted Taylor provided him with a gift card in return for using databases to gather information.
“This case exposes attempts by the government of the PRC to suppress dissenting voices within the United State,” FBI Counterintelligence Division Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. said. “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. The FBI battles transnational repression because it is an evil in its own right, and an assault on the freedoms of an open society. Our community’s safety and our nation’s security were jeopardized by this criminal behavior, and we remain dedicated to combating transnational repression and bringing to justice those that perpetrate it.”
With arraignment to take place at a later date, the defendants face varied terms of imprisonment should they be convicted. Miller faces up to 20 years; Taylor, Ziburis and Sun each face up to 25 years; and Liu could see up to 30 years in prison.
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