U.S. prosecutors charged two men with professional ties to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with participating in what federal officials have described as a “transnational repression scheme” that involved spying on and harassing political dissidents in the United States on behalf of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC).
Craig Miller, a DHS deportation officer who has worked out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the last 15 years, and Derrick Taylor, a former DHS law enforcement agent and private investigator in Irvine, California, were indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury, alongside three other men.
“We will defend the rights of people in the United States to engage in free speech and political expression, including views the PRC government wants to silence,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen, in a statement from the Department of Justice. “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.”
The other three defendants in the case are Fan “Frank” Liu, Matthew Ziburis, and Qiang “Jason” Sun. Liu and Ziburis were arrested previously in March, and were residents of New York. Miller and Taylor were arrested in June. Sun is a resident of the PRC and remains at large.
According to the relevant court documents, one of Liu’s co-conspirators allegedly retained Taylor to obtain personal information about multiple PRC dissidents living in the United States, including flight records, passport information and photographs. Taylor was allegedly assisted by two other DHS officers, including Miller. These contacts within the DHS allegedly obtained the information from a restricted government database and illicitly provided it to Taylor. Liu, Ziburis, and Sun allegedly used this information to target and harass these dissidents at the behest of the PRC.
Miller allegedly deleted text messages between himself and Taylor while being questioned by authorities, and Taylor supposedly instructed an associate to withhold evidence from the FBI.
Miller and Taylor have been charged with obstruction of justice, and Taylor has additionally been charged with making false statements to the FBI. Liu and Ziburis are being charged with conspiring to act as agents of the PRC. Liu, Ziburis, and Sun are being charged with conspiring to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification.
The accused, if convicted, face decades in prison, with possible sentences for the defendants ranging between 20-30 years.