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Singaporean man pleads guilty to spying for China in the US

Andrew Cuomo

A Singaporean man living in Washington D.C. has pleaded guilty to being an “illegal agent of a foreign power,” prosecutors said Friday.

Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, worked for Chinese intelligence for four or five years, recruiting Americans with access to sensitive information over the internet and commissioning them to write reports, which he then passed on to Beijing.

“The Chinese Government uses an array of duplicity to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting Americans,” United States Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement. “Yeo was central to one such scheme, using career networking sites and a false consulting firm to lure Americans who might be of interest to the Chinese government. This is yet another example of the Chinese government’s exploitation of the openness of American society.”

His guilty plea comes amid an ongoing crackdown on Chinese operatives in the US.

On Friday, a Chinese military-linked scientist who had been hiding out in the country’s San Francisco consulate surrendered to US authorities. Her arrest followed the shuttering of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which Washington has linked to espionage operations and Intellectual Property theft.

That move sparked a major backlash from Beijing, which has ordered the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu, which it also accuses of being a hub of spying operations.

Fake consultancy

According to prosecutors, Yeo was recruited by Chinese intelligence during a trip to Beijing around 2015, when he was studying for a doctorate from the National University of Singapore. He was offered money in exchange for political reports and information, and later asked to sign a contract with China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

While he did not sign the contract, Yeo continued to work with Chinese intelligence operatives, who increasingly requested he focus on obtaining “non-public information” from the US, related to issues such as artificial intelligence and the ongoing US-China trade war.

Yeo met with his intelligence handlers dozens of times, and when he traveled to China for these meetings he was regularly taken out of the customs lines and brought into a separate office for admission into the country, which he told prosecutors was intended to “conceal his identity when he traveled into China.”

As he increasingly targeted the US, Yeo set up a fake consultancy website and began soliciting resumes, receiving hundreds, including many from US military and government personnel with security clearances, which he would pass on to his Chinese handlers.

One person he recruited in this way was a civilian working for the US Air Force on the F-35B military aircraft program, with a high-level security clearance. This person, who has not been identified by prosecutors, was having financial problems, and Yeo commissioned them to write a report for him.

Yeo moved to the US around January 2019, after which his handlers told him not to communicate with them for fear of interception. When he had to get in touch, Yeo was told to do so from a local coffee shop.

It’s unclear how and when Yeo was arrested, but he was charged this year with acting as an “illegal agent of a foreign power without first notifying the Attorney General,” and subsequently pleaded guilty.

He is due to be sentenced in October, and faces up to 10 years in prison.

“Today’s guilty plea underscores the ways that the Chinese government continues to target Americans with access to sensitive government information, including using the Internet and non-Chinese nationals to target Americans who never leave the United States,” Michael R. Sherwin, acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a statement. “We will continue to prosecute those who use deceptive practices on the Internet and elsewhere to undermine our national security.”

Article Topic Follows: US & World

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