A New York City Police Department officer was arrested Wednesday on federal charges of acting as an illegal agent of the Chinese government, authorities said.
Baimadajie Angwang, 33, a Chinese man of Tibetan ethnicity who gained asylum in the United States, is accused of providing “non-public information about internal operations of the NYPD” to Chinese government officials stationed at the consulate and offering them access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official events, according to federal prosecutors.
Since at least 2014, Angwang also reported on the activities of Chinese citizens in the New York area and fed information about potential intelligence sources within the Tibetan community, according to federal prosecutors.
“Let them [superiors in Beijing] know you have recruited one in the police department,” Angwang told one of the Chinese government officials, according to a government detention memo.
Authorities described the official as Angwang’s “handler.”
“In other words, Angwang received tasks from, and reported back to, PRC officials,” prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York said in the memo, referring to the People's Republic of China.
In a recorded call, Angwang offered the official access to NYPD events “to raise our country’s soft power” and offered to provide information “whatever is worth money or not worth money to your side,” according to court documents.
Angwang, who is a member of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Unit, called or texted the official on at least 55 occasions between June 2018 and March, the detention memo says.
The official is believed to have been assigned to the China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture, a division that focuses on, among other things, neutralizing sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of the PRC,” the memo says.
“The Chinese government recruited and directed a U.S. citizen and member of our nation’s largest law enforcement department to further its intelligence gathering and repression of Chinese abroad,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said.
Angwang’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called the accusations "pure fabrication."
"The indictment is full of hedging terms such as 'seems' and 'possibly,' indicating the falsehood of the accusations," Wenbin said. "The U.S. won't succeed in its smears against Chinese consulates and personnel in the US."
In addition to his work with the NYPD, Angwang is also a U.S. Army Reservist and holds the rank of staff sergeant at Fort Dix in New Jersey, according to federal prosecutors. As part of that position, the FBI says he holds a “secret” level security clearance.
Federal prosecutors said in the detention memo they want Angwang held awaiting trial due to his strong ties to the Chinese government and the financial means to flee.
His father and mother are retired members of the government and the Chinese Communist Party, and his brother serves as a reservist in the Chinese Army, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say Angwang falsely obtained U.S. citizenship by claiming asylum, stating that he had been arrested and tortured in China due partly to his Tibetan ethnicity.
“Yet, despite alleging torture and persecution at the hands of PRC security officials, the government’s investigation has revealed that Angwang has traveled back to the PRC on numerous occasion since his asylum application was granted,” the memo says.
“These are not the actions of an individual who fears torture or persecution at the hands of the PRC, thus showing that his U.S. citizenship was secured through false pretenses.”
At his initial court appearance, Angwang was ordered held without bail on charges of acting as an illegal agent of China, wire fraud, making false statements and obstructing an official hearing. His lawyer did not request a bail package but said he may do so at a later date.
Prosecutors say Angwang once sought guidance from his handler after the NYPD proposed that he sit for an interview with a New York City news outlet that supports the Falun Gong, a spiritual group outlawed in China. But the government official told Angwang that would be “too much of a risk” and he should decline, court documents say.