What to Know
- A 33-year-old NYPD officer arrested for allegedly providing the Chinese government with information on ethnic Tibetans in NY will be detained pending trial, a federal judge ruled Wednesday
- Baimadajie Angwang faces charges including acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the attorney general, wire fraud, making false statements and obstruction
- He faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all counts
A federal judge ruled the 33-year-old NYPD officer accused of acting as an agent for the Chinese government poses a serious risk of flight and ordered him detained pending trial on Wednesday, according to court documents.
In a 16-page detention memo, U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee ruled "no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of" Baimadajie Angwang at his next Brooklyn federal court hearing. Angwang faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted of all counts against him, which Komitee said gives him stronger motivation to flee.
He "clearly has strong ties to China," which has no extradition treaty, the memo said, and the evidence against him appears to be strong. Angwang also appears to have access to significant financial resources, the judge said -- and remanded him to the custody of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Angwang, a 33-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Tibet and a patrol officer with Queens' 11th Precinct, allegedly agreed to spy on U.S. supporters of the Tibetan independence movement since 2012 as an agent for China in its effort to suppress the movement, according to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn.
The criminal complaint says he secretly worked for unnamed handlers from the Chinese Consulate in New York. Angwang faces charges including acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the attorney general, wire fraud, making false statements about his contacts and obstruction of an official proceeding.
There was no allegation that Angwang compromised national security or NYPD operations. Still, he was considered “the definition of an insider threat,” William Sweeney, head of the FBI’s New York office, said in a previous statement.
A spokesman for the government of the People's Republic of China dismissed allegations that an NYPD officer allegedly acted as its agent as "pure fabrication" in a statement a day after the cop's arrest.
"The indictment is full of hedging terms such as 'seems' and 'possibly,' indicating the falsehood of the accusations," the statement from Wang Wenbin said. "The U.S. won't succeed in its smears against Chinese consulates and personnel in the U.S."
Court papers say Angwang’s job as a spy for China was to “locate potential intelligence sources” and “identify potential threats to the (People's Republic of China) in the New York metropolitan area.” He also was expected to provide consulate officials “access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official NYPD events,” they add.
Angwang, who currently lives in Nassau County's Williston Park, first came to the United States on a cultural exchange visa. He overstayed a second visa and eventually sought asylum in the U.S. on the basis he had been tortured in China due in part to his Tibetan ethnicity, the complaint says. Thousands of Tibetans are believed to have been killed by the People's Republic of China since China occupied and took control of the region in 1951.
He allegedly lied on a national security clearance questionnaire about having "extensive contacts with government officials from the People’s Republic of China" and about having ongoing contact with family in China, some of whom were affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the armed forces unit of the Chinese government.
The NYPD says Angwang had been with the department for about five years and had been tracked for three of those.
In a statement on his initial arrest, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Angwang "violated every oath he took in this country. One to the United States, another to the U.S. Army, and a third to this Police Department."
Angwang served in the U.S. Marine Corps until 2014, and spent time in Afghanistan. After the Marines Corps, he joined the Army Reserve, where he holds the rank of Staff Sergeant and is stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in an Airborne Civil Affairs battalion. In that role, Angwang is a civil affairs specialist who advises command on tactical and operational deployment of Civil Affairs teams and assists in planning, training, advising and executing civil-military programs, the complaint says. He holds a "secret" level security clearance in connection with that job; the complaint says he would not have received that clearance level had the Department of Defense been aware of his foreign connections.
Furthermore, he would have been dismissed from the U.S. Army Reserves entirely had the organization been aware of the relationship he allegedly had with two Chinese consulate officials in the New York area dating back to at least 2018.
Federal officials accuse Angwang of providing information on ethnic Tibetans in New York and elsewhere to the Chinese government, scouting out Tibetan intelligence agents and using his official NYPD position to get Chinese consulate officials access to senior NYPD members via official event invitations.
None of those activities fall within the purview of his responsibilities with the NYPD or the U.S. Army Reserve, the criminal complaint says.
Angwang's attorney has argued his client may have acted on an understable impulse; he wanted to visit his family in China and his ability to do so depended on the good will of the Chinese consulate.