A New York City police officer who lives in Williston Park has been arrested by FBI agents and charged with secretly supplying intelligence on Tibetan nationals to the Chinese government, according to court papers.
Baimadajie Angwang, 33, a Tibet native and a naturalized U.S. citizen, is accused of providing information to handlers from the People's Republic of China about the activities of ethnic Tibetans in New York and assessing potential intelligence sources among that community, court papers said.
Angwang, an officer in the 111th Precinct in Bayside and a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, is also accused of identifying "potential threats to the PRC in the New York area," and assisting PRC agents in gaining access to top NYPD officials by arranging for them to be invited to police events, the papers said.
Angwang’s main handler was at the Chinese consulate in New York, the papers said. He told his handler that he could provide inside information on the workings of the NYPD, and also identified a number of people of Tibetan background who worked for politicians in Queens, the court papers said. They were not identified in the papers.
In tape recorded talks with his Chinese government handlers, Angwang was quoted as saying, that his motivation to be promoted in the NYPD "was to assist the PRC and bring ‘glory to China,’ "
He stated that if he could not be promoted within the NYPD, he "'might as well be a government employee in China,’" according to court papers.
At a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, Angwang did not offer a bail application package and was ordered detained by Magistrate Roanne Mann. Angwang’s attorney, John Carman of Garden City, declined to comment.
Angwang faces four felony counts, including acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. government, wire fraud, making false statements and obstruction of an official proceeding.
If convicted on all charges, Angwang could theoretically face up to 55 years in prison.
In a detention memo, federal prosecutors asked that the defendant not be released on bail because he presented a serious risk of flight.
"Furthermore, the defendant has significant familial ties to the PRC and apparent access to substantial financial resources to aid his flight from justice," the memo reads.
"The defendant allegedly violated his sworn oath to serve the New York City community and defend the Constitution against all enemies by reporting to PRC government officials about the activities of Chinese citizens in the New York area and developing intelligence sources within the Tibetan community in the United States," acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Seth DuCharme said in a prepared statement.
The court papers say that Angwang’s father, mother and brother live in China. His parents are members of the Communist party, the papers say, adding his mother is a retired government official, though her position is not specified; his father was in the People’s Liberation Army, and his brother is a reservist in that army.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the department has been working with federal officials investigating the case and the officer has been suspended without pay.
"State and local officials should be aware that they are not immune to the threat of Chinese espionage," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. "According to the allegations, the Chinese government recruited and directed a U.S. citizen and member of our nation’s largest law enforcement department to further its intelligence gathering and repression of Chinese abroad."
Since 1951, when China occupied Tibet, there has been an active movement of Tibetans calling for the independence of the country, and supported by overseas Tibetans, the court papers say. The Chinese Communist government has actively opposed this movement.
"Thousands of Tibetan are believed to have been killed by the PRC during periods of repression and martial law in the region," the papers say. And PRC officials have called the Tibetan independence movement "as one of the ‘five poisons’ threatening the stability of the PRC," according to the court papers.
The most notable Tibetan exile is probably the Dalai Lama, and the land has been the spiritual home of Tibetan Buddhism.
Angwang originally entered the United States on a cultural exchange visa, and overstayed a second visa, after which he successfully sought asylum on "the basis that he had allegedly been arrested and tortured in the PRC due partly to his Tibetan ethnicity," the papers said.
The false statement charge alleges he said on a questionnaire to gain national security clearance for his Army position that he had not had contact with foreign nationals but, in fact, he "was in contact with family members in [China], some of whom were affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army," the papers said.
As an Army sergeant, Angwang was in a civil affairs battalion at Fort Dix, N.J., the papers said. In that position, Angwang assisted in planning and executing unspecified civil-military programs, the papers said.
At the NYPD, Angwang is assigned as a community liaison officer with the 111th Precinct, and before that he was a patrol officer and on the crime prevention team, the papers said.
The Associated Press reported that Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Tuesday said the indictment against Angwang was full of hedging terms such as "seems" and "possibly," giving the appearance that prosecutors were straining to make their case.
"The relevant accusations made by the U.S. side are pure fabrication," Wang told reporters at a daily briefing. "The U.S. plot to discredit the Chinese Consulate and personnel in the United States will not succeed."
A woman who answered the door at Angwang’s Cape Cod style home — which was adorned with a U.S. flag and a Marine Corps pennant — identified herself as Angwang’s mother in-law. The woman, who would not give her name, held a young child in her arms. She said she spoke very little English and had no comment when asked about Angwang’s arrest.
Residents in Angwang’s neighborhood said he and a woman moved there about two years ago, and the couple have young children.
Ralph Bonelli, 77, a retired correction officer who has lived in the neighborhood nearly five decades, described the residents in Angwang’s home as a "nice couple" who were always working outside. "He looked like a friendly guy," Bonelli said. But he added: "If the charges are true, then he should go away for the rest of his life."
Bonelli said he saw a lineup of about 10 men standing in front of Angwang’s home Monday morning about 10 a.m. while he was walking with his wife.
"They were standing out there looking and staring," he said, adding, he told his wife, "Something had to happen here."
Bonelli said one of the men wore a suit, and he asked him, is everything is all right?
"He said, ‘Yeah, everything is all right,’" Bonelli said the man told him.
With Antonio Planas and Anthony M. DeStefano. The Associated Press contributed to this report.