A New York City police officer who also serves in the U.S. Army Reserve was charged Monday with illegally acting as a spy for the Chinese government.
Baimadajie Angwang, 33, is accused of serving as an “intelligence asset” tasked with gathering information on the activities of Tibetans and political opponents in the New York area for the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Prosecutors in New York said some of the people Officer Angwang gathered intelligence on were “religious and ethnic minorities.”
Officer Angwang’s handler, named in court papers as “PRC Official-2,” is believed to be part of a Chinese United Front Work Department that neutralizes “potential opposition to the policies and authority of the PRC,” according to a criminal complaint.
Officer Angwang is charged with acting as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China, wire fraud, making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding. The charges carry a maximum potential prison sentence of 55 years.
Employed with the New York Police Department’s community affairs unit in the 11th precinct in Queens, Officer Angwang used his position to spy for the PRC, prosecutors said.
He volunteered to provide his handler with information from the NYPD computer systems and provided Chinese consulate officials with access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official police department events, according to court documents.
Having consulate officials attend the events would “raise our country’s soft power,” Officer Angwang allegedly told his handler.
Officer Angwang developed a connection with one Chinese official at the consulate in New York and by 2018 began a relationship with a second official, who became his handler and who he called “Boss,” court documents say.
Court papers say Officer Angwang texted or called the consulate officials more than 100 times since 2014.
Wiretapped phone conversations captured Officer Angwang bragging about his NYPD job, telling his handler that Beijing “should be happy” that China’s Communist government stretched its reach into the police, court documents stated.
Officer Angwang told officers that he wanted to be promoted so he could “assist the PRC and bring ‘glory to China,’” according to court documents. He also said that if he could not be promoted in the department, then “he might as well be a government employee in China,” prosecutors said.
New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said the NYPD worked with federal authorities to nab Officer Angwang.
“As alleged in this federal complaint, Baimadajie Angwang violated every oath he took in this country,” the commissioner said in a statement. “One to the United States, another to the U.S. Army, and a third to this Police Department.”
Prosecutors said he initially traveled to the United States on a cultural exchange visa. But he overstayed on a second visa, eventually seeking asylum in the United States by claiming he had been “arrested and tortured in the [PRC] due partly to this Tibetan ethnicity,” according to the criminal complaint.
In a detention memo filed Monday, prosecutors say that despite Officer Angwang’s claims of torture, he traveled back to the PRC on numerous occasions since asylum was granted.
“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,” the memo said.
Officer Angwang also works as a civil affairs specialist for the Army Reserve, where he holds a “Secret” level security clearance.
Prosecutors said Officer Angwang’s father is a retired member of China’s army and a member of the country’s Communist Party. His mother is both a Communist Party member and a retired government official. His parents live in China with his brother, who serves in the People’s Liberation Army.
Officer Angwang in 2016 wired $150,000 to accounts in China controlled by his brother and another individual, prosecutors said.
“Angwang has also received multiple substantial wire transfers from the PRC,” the complaint said.