A former New York Police Department sergeant and two other individuals who were accused of harassing Chinese dissidents in the U.S. have been found guilty of committing interstate stalking.
Key details: Michael McMahon, 55, is facing up to 20 years in prison, while New York residents Zhu Yong, 66, and Zheng Congying, 27, will receive up to 25 years and 10 years, respectively, following the first federal trial for Operation Fox Hunt, an alleged Beijing-backed operation that repatriates Chinese dissidents living overseas through intimidation.
The trio are expected to receive their sentences at a later date.
About their charges: McMahon, who became a private investigator after leaving the NYPD, was convicted on Tuesday of illegally acting as an agent of a foreign government, stalking and conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking. Zheng was convicted of interstate stalking and conspiracy to commit interstate stalking, while Zhu was convicted of all the charges.
The context: Prosecutors alleged last month that Zhu hired McMahon as a private investigator in 2016 for a surveillance job that involved Xu Jin, a former Chinese official accused of bribery and embezzlement who now lives in New Jersey.
McMahon was allegedly paid $5,000 in cash and $14,000 in checks and wire transfers, most of which were deposited into the personal accounts of the private investigator, his wife and their son.
According to prosecutors, McMahon, Zheng and Zhu harassed and stalked Xu and his family for around three years. Zheng was accused of posting an intimidating letter on Xu’s front door in 2018, which read: “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right.”
What happened in court: The trio reportedly did not dispute the evidence used against them, such as Zheng’s fingerprints on the threatening note and surveillance footage showing McMahon, Zhu and a Chinese official’s meeting at a Panera Bread branch in Paramus, New Jersey.
McMahon’s defense attorney reportedly argued that the former NYPD sergeant thought he was working for a Chinese company. Prosecutors countered this by stating that the man knew who Xu was after searching him up and learning that he was an Interpol fugitive wanted by Beijing.
What’s happening next: The three defendants’ lawyers are reportedly planning to appeal the conviction, saying that the jury’s verdict was “inconsistent with the evidence at the trial.”