WASHINGTON – Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, was sentenced today in federal court to 14 months in prison. Yeo pled guilty on July 24, 2020 to acting within the United States as an illegal agent of a foreign power without first notifying the Attorney General, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951. The announcement was made by John G. Demers, Assistant Attorney General; Michael R. Sherwin, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia; James A. Dawson, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of FBI Washington Field Office; Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division; and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations.
Yeo was sentenced by The Honorable Tanya S. Chutkan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
“At the direction of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, Yeo recruited Americans to provide information that he would pass back to his PRC handlers,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “Yeo concealed his PRC affiliation from his recruits and, contrary to law, from the United States Government. This criminal conduct is part of the PRC’s efforts to exploit the openness of American society by using agents who may appear innocuous, but who act upon taskings from a foreign government to obtain access and information.”
“This case serves as a reminder that China is using professional networking social media sites to target U.S. citizens with government security clearances, and to try to gain non-public and classified information. The threat is real, and we will prosecute foreign agents who exploit those platforms,” said Michael R. Sherwin, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
“Today we are reminded yet again of the Chinese government’s aggressive attempts to gain knowledge and information about U.S. policy and government,” said James A. Dawson, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “The FBI’s warning is not new, but the message warrants repeating: the Chinese communist government is working to gain information and access by all means, including recruiting US-based individuals to provide classified and/or sensitive information. There is no doubt that if you are a former clearance holder, you are an ideal and vulnerable target because of your knowledge and access. If you believe you have been the target of a recruitment scheme, the FBI is here to help. We remain committed to rebuffing the Chinese government’s attempts, and to protecting the American people, our ideas, and our national and economic security interests.”
“Jun Wei Yeo admittedly acted as an illegal agent of a foreign power by using various social media sites, such as a professional networking website and other social networking applications, to recruit Americans with access to sensitive government information. He identified their vulnerabilities, like dissatisfaction with work or financial difficulties, and offered money in exchange for information and written reports,” said Alan E. Kohler Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “This is a sobering reminder that the U.S. needs to be clear-eyed about the scope of the Chinese government’s ambition to manipulate Americans for their own nation’s advancement; and, confronting this threat remains the FBI’s top counterintelligence priority.”
“The close working relationship between the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office resulted in today’s sentencing of Mr. Yeo before he could potentially harm the security of our country,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. “This was a great success by all of the agencies involved.”
As outlined in the Statement of Offense, Yeo began working with Chinese intelligence officers as early as 2015, initially targeting other Asian countries, but then focusing on the United States. In response to taskings from his Chinese intelligence contacts, Yeo worked to spot and assess Americans with access to valuable non-public information, including U.S. military and government employees with high-level security clearances. After Yeo identified American targets, he solicited them for non-public information and paid them to write reports. Yeo told these American targets that the reports were for clients in Asia, without revealing that they were in fact destined for the Chinese government.
Yeo made use of various social media sites to carry out the taskings given to him by Chinese intelligence operatives. In 2018, Yeo created a fake consulting company that used the same name as a prominent U.S. consulting firm that conducts public and government relations, and Yeo posted job advertisements under that company name. Ninety percent of the resumes Yeo received in response were from U.S. military and government personnel with security clearances, and he passed resumes of interest to one of the Chinese intelligence operatives.
Yeo also used a professional networking website that is focused on career and employment information to carry out the taskings he received from Chinese intelligence officials. Yeo used the professional networking website to find individuals with resumes and job descriptions suggesting that they would have access to valuable information. After he identified individuals worth targeting, Yeo followed guidance he received from Chinese intelligence operatives regarding how to recruit potential targets, including identifying their vulnerabilities, such as dissatisfaction with work or financial difficulties.
The investigation into this matter was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington Field Office and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas N. Saunders and Erik M. Kenerson of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, along with David Aaron of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. If you suspect you have been the target of a recruitment scheme, contact your local FBI Field Office.