Get the Global IP Investigations and Enforcement Perspective

Industry content delivered straight to your inbox.
Email address
Secure and Spam free...

U.S. Private Investigator—Former Law Enforcement Officer—Arrested for Conspiring with Chinese Foreign Agents in an illegal Chinese “Fox Hunt” operation

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the indictment of eight (8) persons (five of which were arrested) for conspiring to act as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC.)

One of those arrested was a licensed New Jersey (NJ) private investigator (PI) and reportedly a retired NYPD police officer.

According to the DOJ press release, in addition to the above charge, “Six defendants also face related charges of conspiring to commit interstate and international stalking.

Over a three (3) year period, “The defendants, allegedly acting at the direction and under the control of PRC government officials, conducted surveillance and engaged in a campaign to harass, stalk, and coerce certain residents of the United States to return to the PRC as part of a global, concerted, and extralegal repatriation effort known as ‘Operation Fox Hunt.

According to the federal complaint, Operation Fox Hunt is a program in which the PRC targets ethnic Chinese–living in foreign countries–that they allege have committed crimes under PRC law and seek to repatriate them to the PRC to face charges.


“U.S. Law prohibits individuals from acting in the United States as agents of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General,” as noted in the complaint.

It goes without saying that if one country wants another country to arrest an individual for alleged crimes committed in their country, the requesting country must go through official channels. The requesting country cannot send their agents into a sovereign nation and do whatever they want.

As Assistant Attorney General John Demers emphasized in Wednesday’s press conference, “…it was an illegal Chinese law enforcement operation.” 


The primary target was a former Chinese city official accused of corruption in China and had been legally residing in the U.S. since 2010 with his wife and daughter.


  • Life-threatening messages taped to the victim’s door at home in New Jersey, such as, “…return to China promptly or commit suicide.”
  • Or…“If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be safe and all right.
  • Unsolicited packages were sent to the victim with threatening video messages
  • The PRC delivered the elderly father of the victim from China to the U.S.—against the father’s will—to coerce the victim to return to China
  • Stalked the victim’s adult daughter in California
  • Imprisoned the victim’s sister in China


The PRC officials allegedly hired the accused N.J. private investigator to determine the location of the Chinese target/victim that they wanted to return to China. Essentially, the PI used proprietary database sources (restricted for use by licensed PIs for legal purposes only) to determine the location of the victim, as well as the PI’s personal surveillance of the victims for the Chinese agents.


The complaint also alleges that an attempt was made by the Chinese agents to retain a licensed California private investigator to provide information about the victim’s adult daughter, as well as to conduct surveillance.

The California PI became a confidential informant for the FBI in which they recorded his meetings with the Chinese agents and their requests of him.

For example, according to the complaint: “…the PI purported to investigate and surveil [the victim’s daughter] for the Chinese agent. In reality, the PI’s conduct was itself supervised and surveilled by federal law enforcement, who provided material related to the [victim’s daughter] that the PI could in turn give back to the Chinese agent.”


  • Signed retainer agreement with Chinese agents and initially paid and deposited $5,000.
  • Updated Chinese agents with surveillance results
  • PI was photographed in several meetings with Chinese agents in New Jersey
  • PI received a wire transfer of $5,945. from a PRC bank
  • Provided international travel information for victim’s wife
  • Provided date of birth, social security number and bank account information to Chinese agents for the victim’s wife
  • A Chinese agent notified PI of the arrival of the victim’s father, and the PI accepted the task to follow the father to his son’s (victim’s) address and maintain surveillance
  • On the date of the father’s arrival, the PI sent approximately 13 text messages to the Chinese agent, and the Chinese agent sent about 13 messages to the PI
  • A police report indicated that a vehicle registered to the PI was parked in a position to observe the victim’s wife’s relatives at their home at the same time the victim’s father was in that home
  • PI emailed himself a China-based link which indicated “Interpol Launches Global Dragnet for 100 Chinese Fugitives” while surveilling the victim


Is it conceivable that the New Jersey PI was duped into believing he was providing a service for legal purposes?

Is it possible that the PI took the following factors into account before accepting the assignment, such as:

  • the fact that the victim was wanted in China for the crimes of embezzlement, abuse of power, and acceptance of bribes
  • that the Chinese government officially notified Interpol of the victim’s wanted-fugitive status and a “Red Notice” was issued

” A ‘Red Notice’ is a request to law enforcement worldwide that advises all member states of Interpol if an individual is wanted by the requesting country, and contains information about the person’s identity and their alleged criminal conduct,” as noted in the complaint.

The New Jersey PI may have also been swayed by the belief that one of the Chinese agents was purported to be a police officer in Wuhan.

Is it possible that all of the above served to reinforce the PI’s (misguided) belief that he was assisting a legal law enforcement operation, which PIs often do?

Except, of course, in this case, the Chinese agents had no law enforcement authority in the United States, and, therefore, acted “illegally.”


PIs have a legal and ethical obligation to vet the client to ensure that their services are retained for a lawful purpose.

It is very unfortunate that a retired police officer did not have the wherewithal to recognize what he was being called into. However, it is hard to believe that the former officer genuinely understood the illegal gravity of what he was involved in–on behalf of the Chinese State–and just disregarded it.

On the other hand, it is gratifying to learn how the California PI appears to have recognized something was not right with what he was asked to do by the Chinese agents, and this information was brought to the FBI’s attention.

As a result, according to the complaint, “…the PI was a confidential human source for the FBI…and received financial compensation and a certificate of appreciation for his efforts on behalf of law enforcement.”

Disclaimer: is offered as a service to the professional IP community. While every effort has been made to check information in this blog, we provide no guarantees or warranties, express or implied, with regard to content provided in We disclaim any and all liability and responsibility for the qualification or accuracy of representations made by the contributors or for any disputes that may arise. It is the responsibility of the readers to independently investigate and verify the credentials of such person and the accuracy and validity of the information provided by them. This blog is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or other professional advice.

Did you find this post useful?
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join other IP protection professionals, i.e., investigators, attorneys, and brand protection specialists and receive updates straight to your inbox.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

7 comments on “U.S. Private Investigator—Former Law Enforcement Officer—Arrested for Conspiring with Chinese Foreign Agents in an illegal Chinese “Fox Hunt” operation


    Good Reporting
    I am concerned there are consequences and considerations that may extend beyond
    this election season.
    Thank You for you consistent quality effort.
    Tom Manley, Special Agent FBI-Retired


    I am concerned there are similar cases that go unreported
    Tom Manley, Special Agent FBI- Retired

  3. Pingback: Chinese State-Sponsored Espionage (a.k.a. IP Theft) Survey – IP PROBE – Blog

  4. Pingback: Private Investigators Are Routinely Contacted by Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) to Do Their Dirty Work – IP PROBE – Blog

  5. Pingback: Private Investigators Are Routinely Contacted by Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) to Do Their Dirty Work– UPDATE – IP PROBE – Blog

  6. Pingback: Employment Opportunity for Private Investigators Worldwide – IP PROBE – Blog

  7. Pingback: Another Wake-Up Call for PIs Duped by the Chinese State – IP PROBE – Blog

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get the Global IP Investigations and Enforcement Perspective

Industry content delivered straight to your inbox.
Email address
Secure and Spam free...