U.S. prosecutors announced charges on Thursday against a government agent and private investigator in a widening probe of an alleged scheme to stalk and harass Chinese dissidents in the United States.
Craig Miller, a 15-year employee of the Department of Homeland Security, and Derrick Taylor, a former DHS worker, were named in an indictment filed in federal court in Brooklyn. Prosecutors allege the pair obstructed justice by plotting to obtain information from a restricted federal law enforcement database.
Miller, 48, of Hastings, Minnesota, and Taylor, 60, of Irvine, California, are among the latest defendants indicted in a wide-ranging probe of what American officials describe as increasingly aggressive efforts by the Chinese government to seek out, silence and threaten pro-democracy activists abroad.
The defendants are to be arraigned at a later date. It was unclear if they had attorneys who could comment on the allegations.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement that his office "will always work closely with our law enforcement partners to root out corrupt officials in all levels of government and will prosecute those who act on behalf of a hostile foreign state to target the free speech of U.S. residents on American soil."
Miller works as deportation officer at a DHS office in Minnesota. A message was left with the agency on Thursday seeking comment.
According to court papers, a Chinese operative hired Taylor to obtain confidential and sensitive personal information about several Chinese dissidents living in the United States. The information included passport photos, flight records and immigration records, the papers say.
Taylor allegedly recruited two DHS agents, including Miller, to provide him the records from the restricted database. When the FBI confronted the two over the breach, they lied to cover it up, court papers say.
Miller also deleted text messages between him and Taylor from his phone while being interviewed by the FBI, while Taylor instructed a co-conspirator to withhold evidence from the government, the papers add.