July 23 (UPI) -- The Justice Department has charged a Chinese prosecutor of traveling to the United States to lead a sprawling harassment campaign involving at least eight others to force a New Jersey resident to return to the Asian nation.
The new indictment announced Thursday adds 50-year-old Tu Lan, a prosecutor with the Hanyang People's Procuratorate, and another Chinese national to an indictment charging nine people, including a former New York City Police officer, of surveilling, harassing, stalking and threatening a U.S. resident and his family to force their repatriation to China.
The U.S. prosecutors accuse the nine defendants with others unnamed of acting in concert at the direction of the Chinese government under "Operation Fox Hunt," which seeks to force the return of Chinese nationals living abroad to face supposed charges.
"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," Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said in a statement.
The conspiracy began in at least September of 2016 when the Chinese conspirators hired defendant Michael McMahon, the former New York City Police officer, to investigate and surveil John Doe and his family.
Following months of surveillance, the co-conspirators planned to force John Doe's repatriation "through psychological coercion" by bringing his elderly father from China to the United States where he'd tell his son that if he doesn't return with him his family who still reside in the Asian nation "would suffer serious harm, including imprisonment," the document said.
As part of this plan, Tu flew to the United States to oversee the operation a few days prior to the arrival of the target's father, who was instructed to lie to customs officials in order to enter the United States. According to the document, Tu returned to China a few days later but continued to oversee the plan.
Several days later, the target did not return to China with his father, who on the flight home was "very hostile" to his handler, Zhu Feng, who reported to Tu that the elderly man repeatedly talked to flight attendants and that he was concerned "there is informant on this flight," the court document said, adding that Tu then instructed Feng to "delete all the chat content."
The indictment states that several months later two defendants pounded on the front door of the target's New Jersey home and attempted to force their way inside before leaving a note at the residence that said: "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!"
All of the defendants have been charged with acting as agents of China and conspiring to act as agents of China as well as with interstate stalking and conspiring to engage interstate stalking. Tu and Zhu have also been separately charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.