A former NYPD sergeant is accused of helping Chinese spies embedded in New York and New Jersey hunt down dissidents on behalf of their government and threaten to harm their families unless they return to their homes ‘homeland’ to go to prison under a scheme dubbed Operation Foxhunting.
Michael McMahon is put on trial in New York with Zhu Yong and Zheng Congying as Chinese agents to track down dissidents who had fled and intimidate them into returning.
The trial began today with opening statements from US federal prosecutors.
McMahon was working as a private detective after retiring from the NYPD when he was hired by the Chinese government to track down victim Xu Jin and intimidate him, prosecutors say.
Michael McMahon is put on trial in New York with Zhu Yong and Zhen Congying as Chinese agents to track down dissidents who had fled and intimidate them into returning. He is shown arriving at court today with his wife
Zhu Yong leaves federal court in Brooklyn for a Fox Hunt trial in New York on May 31, 2023
Zheng Congying leaves Brooklyn Federal Court, Brooklyn, New York, for his Operation Fox Hunt trial
In 2018, Zheng Congying went to the man’s home in New Jersey and stuck a note on his door that read, “If you’re willing to go back to your home country and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be safe and sound”. .’
All three deny the charges and say they had no idea they were working for the Chinese government.
McMahon claimed he believed he worked for a Chinese construction company and says the fact that he alerted the authorities to his work proves it.
In opening statements to a federal jury, McMahon’s attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, said, “If he’s secretly acting on behalf of the Chinese government, will he call the cops and tell them?”
“He had no idea, none…that he was working for China.”
In 2018, Zheng Congying went to the man’s house in New Jersey and stuck a note on his door.
The note read: ‘If you are willing to return to your home country and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be safe and sound’
Some of the spy equipment found in one of the agent’s luggage, including night vision goggles
Prosecutor Irisa Chen said McMahon researched the target’s name on the internet and even met a Chinese official while on the job, suggesting he saw through the “vague” coverage.
“McMahon knew that wasn’t the real reason. He looked the other way.
Lawyers for Zhu and Zheng, both Chinese citizens and New York residents, also said their clients did not know they worked for the Chinese government.
Xu had headed the municipal development division of the Chinese city of Wuhan before being accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes, according to a 2021 ProPublica investigation.
Michael McMahon in federal court in Brooklyn during his trial
Yong Zhu leaves Brooklyn Federal Court, Brooklyn, as he stands trial in Operation Fox Hunt
Zheng Congying was spotted in federal court in Brooklyn as he faces trial for allegedly acting as a Chinese spy
In his opening statement, Chen did not refer to Xu by name, referring to him only as a former Chinese government official who came to the United States in 2010 after falling out of favor with the ruling Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese government then issued an international notice for his arrest, Chen said.
Xu was identified by name by the first witness, his sister-in-law Liu Yan. She testified that at two separate times in 2016, people she did not know came to her home in Short Hills, New Jersey, and told her that Xu should return to China.
“I was very scared,” she said.
Then, in early 2017, Xu’s elderly father, who lived in China and didn’t know his US address, showed up unannounced at Liu’s house and told him he had a “task” to persuade Xu to return to China.
Chen said in his opening statement that Xu’s father was used as “bait”.
“I can’t believe Chinese government law enforcement used an elderly man to achieve their goal,” Liu said.