A New York City police officer, who is a native of Tibet, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to being an agent of China, officials said.
Baimadajie Angwang, 33, a naturalized United States citizen who lives in Williston Park, entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann to charges of being an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. government, wire fraud and making a false statement.
Angwang was arrested in September on charges of providing information on the Tibetan community in the United States, mainly in the metropolitan area, to his handlers at the Chinese consulate in New York City, officials said.
New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has said that Angwang, who was a police officer in the 111th Precinct in Bayside, has been suspended without pay.
Angwang also has been a sergeant in the United States Army Reserve, with a security clearance, and before that was in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Eastern District federal prosecutors said Angwang was informing on people of Tibetan background who were "potential threats to the PRC [People's Republic of China] in the metropolitan area," as well as possible targets for recruitment in the Midwest, as well as for Chinese agents to gain access to ranking NYPD officials by getting them invited to police events.
According to prosecutors, Angwang was tape recorded telling his Chinese government handlers at the country’s New York consulate that he was hoping to be promoted in the NYPD in order "to assist the PRC and bring ‘glory to China.’ "
Angwang’s attorney, John Carman, said afterward, "Today’s arraignment was a small step forward in our quest to prove the innocence of this Marine Corps veteran."
A spokesman for the Eastern District United States attorney’s office, John Marzulli, declined to comment.
A federal magistrate had ordered Angwang released on $1 million bond to confinement in his Long Island home with an electronic monitor. But the magistrate was overruled by U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee, to whom Eastern District prosecutors appealed the bond decision. Komitee said his decision was a close call, but that Angwang was a flight risk.
Although Angwang had not been charged with espionage, Komitee said he still faced up to 55 years in prison if convicted and the government’s case appeared very strong.
Prosecutors had provided a number of cases in which people convicted of similar charges to which Angwang had been accused and received sentences of between 18 to 120 months, the judge noted.
"Defendant clearly has strong ties to China, a country with which the United States has no extradition treaty," and in addition he has "significant financial resources," Komitee said.
Angwang’s father, mother and brother live in China, prosecutors said, adding that both parents are members of the Communist Party. His mother was an unspecified government official, his father was in the People’s Liberation Army, and his brother is a reservist in the army, prosecutors said.
Angwang has appealed Komitee’s decision to the Second Circuit and that court’s ruling is pending.