A San Francisco tour operator was recognized and charged with spying for China. The US Justice Department declared on Monday that the FBI investigators observed him for months and found out that the tour operator undertook multiple "dead drops" of money and had several SD memory chips with highly sensitive information. The department has shared visuals of him in the act.
The department further informed that Edward Peng Xuehua, a naturalised US citizen, was arrested in Hayward, California on Friday. Initially, Edward was charged with acting as an illegal foreign agent for "delivering classified United States national security information to officials of the People's Republic of China's Ministry of State Security.”
The 56-year-old tour operator was exposed over the course of a "double agent operation" targeting the MSS, China's national intelligence arm. The FBI transferred all the sensitive information obtained by the spy to MSS agents using the US double agent, who was paid for the information.
In early 2015, Peng was seen picking up a SD card with US secrets that the double agent had been told by her Chinese "handlers" to leave inside a book at the front desk of a hotel in Newark, California, near San Jose, since then the operation had started that eventually led the authorities to him.
Months later, in October 2015, Peng was caught for the second time, picking up another book dropped at the same hotel that held a secrets-loaded memory card. He then flew to Beijing where, according to investigators, he contacted MSS agents and handed over the card.
For several months, between 2016 and 2018, The FBI were onto Peng’s activities, and often observed him picking up the stolen US secrets or left money for the double agent in hotels in both the San Francisco area and Columbus, Georgia, at the direction of MSS agents.
Authorities say the unnamed double agent went to the FBI in 2015 after China’s intelligence department tried to recruit the person as a spy. The unnamed agent was told by Chinese intelligence officials at a meeting in 2015 that “Ed” was reliable and had family in China, according to the complaint. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of working as an unregistered agent of a foreign govenment.
(With Agency inputs)