Authorities arrested a California resident on Friday on charges of spying for the Chinese government.
The FBI and Justice Department announced the arrest on Monday, releasing the criminal complaint against the alleged agent.
“The charges announced today specifically regard the use of an American citizen to remove classified national security information from the United States to the People’s Republic of China,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson at a press conference. Anderson is a lawyer for the Northern District of California, which is handling prosecution in the case.
The defendant, Xuehua “Edward” Peng, is a naturalized American citizen who worked as a tour guide for Chinese visitors to San Fransisco.
The complaint alleges that Peng operated under China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), collecting information from agents via “dead drops” and passing along that information to the MSS, while also delivering payments to the agents.
Peng was caught through the use of a double agent, who U.S. authorities used to pass on carefully tailored classified information. The double agent had also met with officers in the MSS in China.
Peng, who first came to the U.S. in 2001 and was naturalized in 2012, faces up to ten years in prison for acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
U.S. officials have been wary of Chinese spying abilities for some time, and have said that Chinese agencies are adept at compiling information on American agents and their weaknesses.
In May of 2017, the New York Times shed light on a Chinese operation that decimated U.S. intelligence-gathering abilities in China. According to the report, from 2010 to 2012 the Chinese managed to kill or imprison 18- 20 of the U.S.’s most valuable sources in the country, effectively crippling U.S. intelligence for years afterward.