Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, worked as an unregistered agent for the Chinese government from 2015 to November 2019.
“The Chinese government uses an array of duplicity to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting Americans,” Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division John C. Demers said Friday in a statement.
“This is yet another example of the Chinese government’s exploitation of the openness of American society,” Demers added.
Yeo pled guilty to involvement in a scheme that used career networking sites and posed as a false consulting firm to attract American citizens with access to intelligence, who were potentially of interest to Beijing.
Yeo originally worked to attract people from various Asian countries before focusing on the U.S. At the direction of intelligence officials, he worked to find and target Americans who had access to sensitive information, such as people who had top security clearances in the military and the government.
According to findings from the Department of Justice, Yeo paid Americans to write reports for him, telling them it was for clients in Asia, but never specifying it was for the Chinese government.
“Mr. Yeo admitted that he not only provided valuable information to Chinese intelligence, but also that he knowingly recruited others in the U.S. to do the same,” Timothy R. Slater, FBI Washington field office assistant director in charge, said.
“The tactics Mr. Yeo used to target cleared individuals on professional networking social media sites are just one facet of the full court press China employs on a daily basis to obtain non-public U.S. government information,” Slater explained.
The phony consulting firm that Yeo set up used the same name as a prominent U.S. firm and claimed to conduct public and government relations. Yeo also posted job advertisements that were largely answered by government and military officials with active security clearances.
The resumes of interest were then forwarded on to Chinese intelligence operatives.
Yeo also utilized a professional networking website to locate and target people of interest. He was then guided through his interactions with them by Chinese intelligence officials. He was instructed on how to identify vulnerabilities such as financial or work discontentment, to use in recruiting his targets.
“This isn’t just about this particular defendant,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, said. “This case is yet another reminder that China is relentless in its pursuit of U.S. technology and policy information in order to advance its own interests.”
Yeo facing a potential ten year sentence for being charged in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951 as an “agent of a foreign government.”
The sentencing is set for October 9, 2020.