Xeuhea “Edward” Peng, a naturalized U.S. citizen, plead guilty on Monday to charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China. The plea was part of an good-faith attempt at a plea deal which would provide a four year prison sentence and a fine of $30,000. The judge has declined to accept the deal until the sentencing phase of the trial.
Peng was a tour operator in San Francisco who was approached by Chinese officials during a trip to China in 2015, and agreed to deliver memory cards to them.
Peng would travel to various hotel rooms in the United States – for the six successful operations, he was directed to rooms in Oakland, CA; Newark, CA; and Columbus, GA – and leave envelopes containing $10,000 to $20,000. He would then leave the room, returning hours later to pick up the memory cards which would be left for him. After gathering the cards, he would fly to China and deliver them to state officials.
Peng was intercepted by the FBI during the seventh use of the “dead drop”. According to information provided during the trial, the U.S. was providing the memory cards via a double agent from the start, and no harmful data was transferred during the operation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Peng came to the United States in 2001 on a temporary business visa, became a permanent lawful resident in 2006 following his marriage, and became a naturalized citizen in 2012.
The arrest and trial are a reminder that the United States intelligence services are working to protect us from hostile foreign governments… in this case, via a case which was initiated under Barack Obama and continued through President Trump’s tenure… and that it would be a terrible and foolish mistake to treat reports of foreign efforts against our nation in a cavalier fashion.