The U.S. has charged two Chinese intelligence officers in a scheme to bribe a U.S. government employee to steal “secret” documents relating to the prosecution of a company in China. The defendants paid the government employee, who is actually a double agent, approximately $61,000 in bitcoin for stealing the information, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Alleged Chinese Spies Charged in Scheme to Steal Secret Documents
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the unsealing of a criminal complaint Monday charging two Chinese intelligence officers in a scheme to bribe a U.S. government employee and steal “secret” documents. The defendants remain at large.
Guochun He (aka Dong He and Jacky He) and Zheng Wang (aka Zen Wang) allegedly orchestrated a scheme to steal internal files and other non-public information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The information relates to the ongoing investigation and prosecution of a global telecommunications company (Company-1) based in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). According to court documents, the company is the Chinese tech giant Huawei.
“Guochun He and Zheng Wang are charged with attempting to obstruct a criminal prosecution of Company-1 in federal district court in the Eastern District of New York,” the DOJ described, adding:
Defendant He also is charged with two counts of money laundering based upon bribe payments totaling approximately $61,000 in bitcoin, made in furtherance of the scheme.
The Scheme to Steal Secret U.S. Documents
The DOJ explained that starting in 2019, the two Chinese intelligence officers directed an employee at a U.S. government law enforcement agency (GE-1) to steal confidential information about the criminal prosecution of Company-1.
He and Wang believed the U.S. government employee had been recruited to work for the PRC. However, the employee was in fact a double agent working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The defendants tasked GE-1 with reporting about meetings that GE-1 was purportedly having with prosecutors. In October 2021, GE-1 used an encrypted messaging program to send the defendants a single page from a purported internal strategy memorandum regarding the Company-1 case. The DOJ noted:
The document appeared to be classified as ‘SECRET’ and to discuss a plan to charge and arrest two current Company-1 employees living in the PRC.
GE-1 was paid approximately $41,000 in bitcoin for stealing that document.
Defendant He further told GE-1 that the company will be interested in GE-1 stealing another part of the strategy memorandum. He paid GE-1 an additional payment of $20,000 in bitcoin this month for the information. The DOJ detailed:
If convicted, Guochun He faces up to 60 years of imprisonment and Wang faces up to 20 years of imprisonment.
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