A federal grand jury in Brooklyn yesterday returned a superseding indictment charging five defendants, including a current federal police officer and a retired federal police officer, with various crimes related to a transnational crackdown scheme orchestrated on behalf of of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Accused Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, of Jericho, New York; Matthew Ziburis, 49, of Oyster Bay, New York; and Qiang “Jason” Sun, 40, of the PRC were charged in March 2022 with allegedly carrying out a transnational crackdown that targeted U.S. residents whose political views and actions are disfavored by the PRC government. Among other things, these defendants allegedly conspired to destroy the artwork of a PRC national residing in Los Angeles, who criticized the PRC government and installed surveillance equipment at the workplace and car. of the artist to spy on him from the PRC. Liu and Ziburis were arrested following a criminal complaint in March 2022, while Sun remains at large.
The superseding indictment adds two new defendants, Craig Miller and Derrick Taylor, to the scheme. Miller is a 15-year-old Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee, currently assigned as a deportation agent with DHS Emergency Relief Operations in Minneapolis, and Taylor is a law enforcement officer. retired from DHS who currently works as a private investigator in Irvine, CA. Miller and Taylor are charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence after being approached by FBI agents and questioned about their acquisition and dissemination of sensitive and confidential information from a restricted database of Federal Law Enforcement Relating to US-based PRC Dissidents. Both Miller and Taylor were arrested following a criminal complaint in June 2022.
“We will uphold the rights of people in the United States to engage in free speech and political expression, including views that the PRC government wants to silence,” said the Assistant Attorney General for the national security Matthew G. Olsen. “As charged, these individuals assisted foreign government agents in seeking to suppress dissenting voices who took refuge here. The defendants include two sworn law enforcement officers who chose to waive their oath and violate the law. This indictment is the next step in holding all of these defendants accountable for their crimes.
“As alleged, this case involves a multi-faceted campaign to silence, harass, discredit and spy on U.S. residents for exercising their freedom of speech – aided by a 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 with their improper conduct, they lied and destroyed evidence,” said said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York.”This office will always work closely with our law enforcement partners to root out corrupt officials at all levels of government and will prosecute those who act on behalf of of a hostile foreign state to target the free speech of American residents on American soil.”
“This case exposes the PRC government’s attempts to suppress dissenting voices in the United States. The actions taken by the defendants – two of whom are current or former federal law enforcement officers – demonstrate how the PRC seeks to hunt down, intimidate and silence those who oppose it,” Deputy Director Alan E. Kohler said. Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. . “The FBI fights transnational repression because it is inherently evil and an attack on the freedoms of an open society. The safety of our community and the security of our nation have been jeopardized by this criminal behavior, and we remain committed to combating transnational repression and bringing those who commit it to justice.
Liu and Ziburis are charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government. Liu, Ziburis and Sun are charged with conspiracy to commit acts of interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification. Liu and Sun are accused of conspiring to bribe a federal official as part of their scheme to obtain the tax returns of a pro-democracy activist residing in the United States. Miller and Taylor are charged with obstruction of justice, while Taylor is charged with making a false statement to the FBI.
If convicted, Liu faces up to 30 years in prison; Ziburis, Sun and Taylor face up to 25 years in prison; and Miller faces up to 20 years in prison. The defendants will be brought to trial at a later date.
As alleged, Liu and Ziburis operated under the direction and control of Sun to discredit pro-democracy PRC dissidents residing in the United States, including those in New York, California and Indiana. with efforts to spread negative information about, and to spy on, stalk, harass, and monitor US-based dissidents.
According to the indictment, one of Liu’s co-conspirators (“co-conspirator”) hired Taylor to obtain personally identifiable information about several PRC dissidents residing in the United States, including Passport information and photos, as well as flight and immigration records, which Taylor allegedly turned over to two DHS law enforcement officers, including Miller. As alleged, Miller and the other DHS agent obtained the information from the restricted database and inappropriately provided it to Taylor, who shared it with the co-conspirator. Liu, Ziburis and Sun used this information to target and harass these US residents while acting on behalf of the PRC government.
Both Miller and Taylor lied about their past conduct when confronted by the FBI, according to court documents. According to the indictment, Miller deleted text messages with Taylor from his phone while being questioned by the FBI, and Taylor ordered a co-conspirator to withhold evidence from the U.S. government. When questioned by the FBI, Taylor falsely claimed that he obtained the recordings in question from a friend who used the “Black Dark Web” – likely a reference to the dark web.
According to the indictment, the co-conspirator called Taylor and claimed to have received a subpoena from the Justice Department requesting the co-conspirator’s communications with Taylor, and Taylor ordered the co-conspirator not to disclose this information to the US government.
According to court documents, when questioned by the FBI, Miller initially claimed to be in sporadic contact with Taylor and said the two did not discuss work matters. After officers warned Miller to be honest, Miller admitted that Taylor provided him with names to scour law enforcement databases. Miller allowed the FBI to search his phone and eventually admitted that he ran the queries for Taylor and texted Taylor the results, and that Taylor provided a gift card in return. Miller then admitted that he deleted the text string with Taylor during the interview earlier today and fabricated all prior statements about the text string, including whether the string included the requested names. by Taylor.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander A. Solomon and Emily J. Dean for the Eastern District of New York are pursuing the case with the assistance of Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section. of National Security, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Grigg for the Central District of California and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Svendsen for the District of Minnesota. U.S. Attorney Peace also thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Professional Responsibility, for their assistance in the investigation.
The FBI has created a website for victims to report efforts by foreign governments to stalk, intimidate, or assault people in the United States. If you believe you are or have been the victim of transnational repression, please visit https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/transnational-repression.
An indictment is only an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.