A NYPD cop and Army reservist with a “secret” security clearance betrayed fellow Tibetans in the Big Apple by spying on them and passing the intel on to a Chinese government handler, authorities said Monday.
Baimadajie Angwang, who worked as a community affairs officer in the 111th Precinct in Queens, allegedly began acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China in May 2018 with an unidentified handler stationed in the Chinese consulate in Manhattan, according to a complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court.
His contacts with the consulate began in 2014, the papers note.
FBI New York Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. called Angwang “the definition of an insider threat,” saying he allegedly “operated on behalf of a foreign government; lied to gain his clearance, and used his position as an NYPD police officer to aid the Chinese government’s subversive and illegal attempts to recruit intelligence sources.”
Angwang — a 33-year-old, married father who lives in a Long Island home with Old Glory flying out front — “served as an intelligence asset” whose duties included gathering information on potential opponents of the Chinese government, including members of “religious and ethnic minorities.”
His handler, identified only as “PRC Official-2,” is believed to have been assigned to the “China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture,” a division of the Chinese United Front Work Department that’s responsible for “neutralizing sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of the PRC,” court papers say.
Angwang, an ethnic Tibetan and naturalized citizen, is accused of reporting on the activities of fellow ethnic Tibetans, including by scoping out “potential ethnic Tibetan intelligence sources in the New York metropolitan area and beyond,” as well as potential troublemakers.
He allegedly called and texted PRC Official-2’s cellphone at least 55 times between June 2018 and March 2020. Earlier, he also called and texted another contact at the consulate — “PRC Official-1” — at least 53 times between Aug. 21, 2014, and Aug. 11, 2017, court papers say.
During a wiretapped phone call on Nov. 14, 2019, Angwang informed his handler — whom he routinely greeted as “Boss” — that several ethnic Tibetans were working in the offices of unspecified elected New York officials, according to court papers.
“They are mainly, mainly, mainly, in Queens, at the Queens area state legislator’s office. These offices all have our people working there, because our population is getting larger. They hire them to pull in more votes, to pull in more votes,” he allegedly said.
“But I also feel that some community groups may use their relationships to associate with them, to chant slogans, to utter nonsense. They may, may, may create more work for you.”
Angwang also “asked PRC Official-2 for taskings and volunteered to assist PRC Official-2 by providing information from NYPD systems,” court papers say.
Angwang also allegedly “provided Consulate officials access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official NYPD events.”
He expressed a desire to bring Official-2 to NYPD events to “raise our country’s soft power,” and offered to provide the handler with information that’s “worth money or not worth money to your side.”
Wiretapped phone conversations allegedly caught Angwang boasting about his NYPD job, including by telling his handler to let his bosses “know, hey, you have someone in the police here” and saying they “should be happy…because you have stretched your reach into the police.”
Angwang also “stated that his motivation to be promoted in the NYPD was to assist the PRC and bring ‘glory to China’” and that if he “could not be promoted within the NYPD, he stated that ‘he might as well as be a government employee in China,’” according to court papers.
“As alleged in this federal complaint, Baimadajie Angwang violated every oath he took in this country. One to the United States, another to the US Army and a third to this Police Department,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said, adding that Angwang has been suspended without pay.
“From the earliest stages of this investigation, the NYPD’s Intelligence and Internal Affairs bureaus worked closely with the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division to make sure this individual would be brought to justice.”
Angwang came to the US on a cultural exchange visa, overstayed a second visa and sought asylum on grounds he had allegedly been arrested and tortured in China “due partly to his Tibetan ethnicity,” court papers say.
But “despite alleging torture and persecution at the hands of PRC security officials, Angwang has traveled back to the PRC on numerous occasions since his asylum application was granted,” court papers say.
Both his parents are members of the Chinese Communist Party, with his dad a retired soldier in the People’s Liberation Army and his mom a retired government worker, court papers say.
He also has a brother who’s a PLA reservist, and all three family members live in China, court papers say.
Angwang was hired by the NYPD on Jan. 6, 2016, and most recently earned about $53,500 during fiscal 2019, according to online city payroll records.
But in April and May 2016, he wired a total of $150,000 to his brother and another person in China, suggesting that he was “significant financial resources in the US,” court papers say.
In addition, he’s allegedly “received multiple substantial wire transfers from the PRC,” including nearly $50,000 from his brother in May 2016.
He and his wife also “received separate credits of $50,000 and $20,000 from an account held in the name of an individual at the Bank of China in New York” in 2014, court papers say.
Angwang is a member of the US Army reserve who holds the rank of staff sergeant and is part of an Airborne Civil Affairs battalion stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where court papers say he “assists in planning, training, advising and executing civil-military programs.”
He holds a “secret” security clearance from the Defense Department, and in May 2019 allegedly lied on an eligibility form that he also previously filled out in 2014 by denying that he had any contact with a foreign government or its representatives, or maintained contact with his relatives with ties to the Chinese Army.
Angwang also appeared in a US Marine Corps dress uniform at a Police Benevolent Association event in November, during which he posed with officials including PBA President Pat Lynch, according to a since-deleted Facebook post.
At the time, the PBA described him as a Marine sergeant who “served 1 tour in Iraq and 2 tours in Afghanistan.”
The USMC didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
In addition to charges of illegally acting as an agent of a foreign government and making false statements, Angwang is charged with wire fraud and obstruction of an official proceeding.
If convicted, he faces a maximum 55 years in prison.
Angwang was ordered held without bond after declining to seek release during a brief, remote video appearance in Brooklyn federal court.
He said only “Yes, your honor,” in a firm voice to a series of procedural questions from Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, who didn’t schedule his next appearance.
Angwang’s lawyer, John Carman, declined to comment.
His neighbors in Williston Park said he and his wife moved in about two years ago and expressed shock over his arrest, which took place around 9 a.m.
“All these men came with FBI on their jackets. I ask one what is happening and all he would say is, ‘Everything is OK,’” said next-door neighbor Ancey Chandy, 44.
Chandy said Angwang and his wife have a 1-1/2-year-old daughter.
“He is very outgoing! Always smiling and saying ‘Hi!’” she said.
“He’s very nice to me and my children. I don’t know what to say.”
Ralph Bonelli, a retired Rikers Island correction officer, said, “I thought maybe it was something else, taking money, you know.”
“I can’t believe it, the world is upside down!” said Bonelli, 77.
“If it’s true, he should go away for the rest of his life. This is our country, you don’t come here and spy!”
A man who lives directly across the street from Angwang’s brick Cape Cod home, and who neighbors described as his friend, said Angwang “used to go every other weekend down to Fort Dix.”
“You just never know who someone is. Seemed like a good guy,” he said.