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Former NYC police officer, 2 others convicted of stalking New Jersey family on behalf of Chinese government

<i>Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>A federal jury in New York convicted three men on June 20 of stalking a New Jersey family. Retired NYPD Sgt. Michael McMahon
Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images
A federal jury in New York convicted three men on June 20 of stalking a New Jersey family. Retired NYPD Sgt. Michael McMahon

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Emma Tucker, CNN

(CNN) — A federal jury in New York convicted three men Tuesday of stalking a New Jersey family on behalf of the Chinese government.

The defendants – Michael McMahon, 55; Zhu Yong, 66; and Zheng Congying, 27 – were convicted of conspiracy and stalking charges related to the plot following a three-week trial. McMahon, a former sergeant in the New York City Police Department, and Yong were also convicted of illegally acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China.

The guilty verdicts are the first trial victory in the US Department of Justice’s efforts to combat Operation Fox Hunt, the Chinese Communist Party’s international alleged anti-corruption campaign targeting those the Chinese government considers fugitives – often former officials or rich individuals suspected of economic crimes.

Three other defendants have pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the PRC-directed harassment and intimidation campaign, according to the DOJ.

The Chinese government launched Operation Fox Hunt in 2014 to target wealthy citizens who were accused of corruption and had fled the country with large amounts of money.

“The defendants engaged in a campaign of harassment and coercion on behalf of the PRC to force the victim’s repatriation to China from the United States, including by threatening family members,” US Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement Tuesday.

“The Department of Justice will hold accountable those who would help repressive regimes violate the fundamental freedoms of people in the U.S.,” he said.

According to prosecutors, the defendants embarked on a years-long campaign targeting a former Chinese government official who had lived in the US for several years. The three men threatened, harassed, surveilled and intimidated the man and his family between 2016 and 2019 to return to China, they said.

Defendants left threatening note, DOJ says

In 2015, the Chinese government prompted Interpol to issue an international Red Notice for the former Chinese official and his wife, alleging they were wanted by the PRC on corruption-related charges, the DOJ said.

Prosecutors said Yong hired McMahon, who was working as a private investigator, to get information about the targeted man, his family and his daughter from government databases. McMahon then reported back to Yong and others, including a police officer with the Chinese government, to give details about the family, prosecutors said.

McMahon also surveilled the man’s sister-in-law as part of the operation, which was orchestrated by PRC officials.

The plot included recording the former official’s daughter, taping a threatening note to the front door of his house, and flying his elderly father from China – allegedly against his will – in 2017 to pressure his son to return to China.

Prosecutors said the note, which defendant Zheng left at the family’s New Jersey home after attempting to force open the front door, stated: “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”

The US government charged eight people, including six Chinese citizens, related to the plot in 2020. Three other defendants previously pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme, prosecutors said.

Speaking at a news conference in October 2020 after the charges were announced, then-US Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said the arrests sent a message that the US “will not tolerate this type of flagrant conduct on our shores.”

“Without coordination with our government, China’s repatriation squads enter the United States, surveil and locate the alleged fugitives, and deploy intimidation and other tactics to force them back into China where they would face certain imprisonment or worse following illegitimate trials,” he said at the time.

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CNN’s Ben Westcott contributed to this report.

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