NEW YORK -- Federal authorities in New York charged seven people Thursday, including five in the People's Republic of China, with a campaign of harassment against a Chinese national and his family living in the U.S., trying to force him to return home.
They face charges including acting as agents of a foreign government, violations of the Travel Act and money laundering conspiracy.
The U.S. attorney’s office alleged the threats and harassment continued for years and were part of “Operation Fox Hunt," characterized by the FBI as an illegal global effort by China to locate and repatriate alleged fugitives who flee to foreign countries.
In a statement Thursday, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace called it an “outrageous violation of national sovereignty."
According to an indictment, the defendants forced a relative of the unidentified man to travel from China to the U.S. to try to convince him to return. They also allegedly sent letters threatening “severe legal punishments” and sued the man and his son in New York, alleging the man had stolen money from his employer in China.
Quanzhong An, of Roslyn, New York, described by prosecutors as the primary U.S. liaison in the conspiracy, met repeatedly with the man in 2020, 2021 and 2022 seeking to persuade him to return to China, including telling him the lawsuit would be dropped if he did so, according to the indictment.
The indictment also charged An and his daughter, Guangyang An, also of Roslyn, with conspiracy to commit money laundering for allegedly enlisting dozens of third parties to transfer millions of dollars from China to the U.S. in smaller increments to avoid running afoul of U.S. money laundering laws. Guangyang An also was charged with one count of conspiracy to engage in interstate harassment.
Quanzhong An, 55, and Guangyang An, 34, were arrested Thursday and pleaded not guilty at an initial court appearance later in the day.
Michael Horn, an attorney representing Quanzhong An, said his client “was never working for the Chinese government,” and added, “we will spend the next few weeks attempting to understand why the U.S. attorney's office has jumped to such an unjustified conclusion."
A message was left with an attorney representing Guangyan An.
The remaining five defendants in China — Tian Peng, Chenghua Chen, Chunde Ming, Xuexin Hou and Weidong Yuan — were at large.