A tour operator from San Francisco who handled dead drops of sensitive information on behalf of the Beijing Ministry of State Security was sentenced to four years in prison for spying for China on Tuesday.
Edward Peng Xuehua, a naturalized US citizen, was arrested in Hayward, California in September for arranging money transfers and SD cards with stolen data at various locations in the United States on behalf of the leading Chinese intelligence agency.
Peng pleaded guilty to the Federal District Court in Oakland, California for illegally acting as an unregistered agent for a foreign government.
The judge sentenced him to 48 months in prison and a $ 30,000 fine shortly before the 10 years and an admissible $ 250,000 fine.
The 56-year-old Peng was exposed by a "double agent operation" against the MSS.
The operation led her to Peng, who in 2015 picked up an SD card with US secrets, which the double agent left behind in a book at the reception of a hotel in Newark, California, upon instruction from her Chinese "handlers".
Months later, Peng was observed picking up another book that had been placed in the same hotel that contained a secret-loaded memory card.
He then flew to Beijing, where investigators contacted the MSS agents and handed over the card.
Between 2016 and 2018, the FBI observed on several other occasions that Peng either uncovered the stolen US secrets or left money for the double agent in hotels in the San Francisco region and in Columbus, Georgia, on instructions from MSS agents.
Peng first came to the US on a business visa in 2001 and remained legal as a non-immigrant.
He married and became a permanent resident in 2006 and a full citizen six years later.
He had a registered company, US Tour and Travel, that served visitors from China who wanted to study in the United States.
"This case exposed one of the ways that Chinese intelligence officers work to collect US classified information without having to enter the country," said John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
Peng "is now being held accountable for his criminal acts and betrayal of his citizenship oath," Demers said in a statement.
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