Jun. 21, 2023 By Bill Parry
A Flushing man faces up to 25 years in prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to act as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Brooklyn federal court on June 20.
A federal jury found Zhu Yong, 66, found guilty of interstate stalking of Chinese nationals in the United States, along with two co-conspirators, following a three-week-long trial.
The case has garnered international attention focused on Zhu’s co-defendant Michael McMahon, a retired NYPD sergeant who works as a private detective in Mahwah, New Jersey, who vehemently denies guilt in the case and is vowing to appeal the verdict. Zhu was convicted of hiring the former cop to conduct surveillance on a Chinese national living in New Jersey, along with the man’s wife and daughter.
Defendants Zhu and McMahon were convicted of knowingly acting at the direction of PRC government officials, to conduct surveillance and engage in a “campaign to harass, stalk and coerce certain residents of the U.S. to return to the PRC” as part of a global and extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.” McMahon faces up to 20 years in prison and a third co-defendant, Zheng Congying, 27, of Brooklyn, faces up to 10 years in prison after he, too, was convicted of conspiracy to commit interstate stalking and interstate stalking.
“The jury’s verdict confirms that defendants McMahon and Zhu knowingly acted at the direction of a hostile foreign state to harass, intimidate and attempted to cause the involuntary return of a resident of the New York metropolitan area to the People’s Republic of China and that defendant Zheng harassed and intimidated that same person and his family,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “It is particularly troubling that defendant Michael McMahon, a former sergeant in the New York City Police Department, engaged in surveillance, harassment and stalking on behalf of a foreign power for money.”
As proven at trial, Zhu hired McMahon to obtain detailed information on the family from a law enforcement database and other government databases, then report back to Zhu and others, including a PRC police officer, with what he had learned. The operation was supervised and directed by several PRC officials, including co-conspirators Hu Ji, a PRC police officer with the Wuhan Public Security Bureau, and Tu Lan, a PRC prosecutor with the Wuhan Procuratorate.
McMahon’s defense argued during the trial that he was unaware the case was connected to PRC officials and that he had trouble understanding Zhou, who spoke little or no English. The FBI wasn’t buying McMahon’s defense.
“We hope this verdict serves as a message to other operatives in the United States working right now at the behest of the People’s Republic of China in its effort to silence those who speak out against it,” FBI Special Agent-in-Charge James E. Dennehy said. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners are watching, and we are taking action to stop the stalking, threatening, and repression of dissidents. A specific takeaway, private investigators will face consequences if they wittingly ignore the warning signs that they may be part of a larger plot to illegally harass and coerce people by a foreign power. If you have concerns, reach out to us.”