Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, pled guilty to one count of acting within the United States as an illegal agent of a foreign power without notifying the Attorney General, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951. The announcement of Yeo’s plea was made on July 24, 2020 by John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General; Michael R. Sherwin, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Washington Field Office; and Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater said, “The tactics Mr. Yeo used to target cleared individuals on professional networking social media sites are just one facet of the full court press China employs on a daily basis to obtain non-public U.S. government information. The FBI urges citizens, especially those holding security clearances, to be cautious when being approached by individuals on social media sites with implausible career opportunities. We are committed to holding those accountable who attempt to work for Chinese intelligence and other adversaries to the detriment of our national security.”
Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division John C. Demers in a statement said, “The Chinese Government uses an array of duplicity to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting Americans. Yeo was central to one such scheme, using career networking sites and a fake consulting firm to lure Americans who might be of interest to the Chinese government. This is yet another example of the Chinese government’s exploitation of the openness of American society.” .
Yeo submitted his plea via videoconference in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before the Honorable Tanya S. Chutkan. The plea announcement comes five weeks after an indictment of Yeo was unsealed, accusing him of acting illegally as an agent of an unspecified foreign government. According to 18 U.S.C. § 951, he is facing up to ten years in prison. He will be sentenced on October 9, 2020.
Yeo admitted to establishing a fake consultancy that used the same name on LinkedIn as a prominent U.S. consulting firm that specializes in government and public relations; a professional networking application, publishing job roles under that company name; and sending resumes of interest that he received from U.S. military and government officials with high security clearances to Chinese intelligence operatives. He paid these officials to write reports and solicited them for non-public information, never informing them that the information they provided was intended for the Chinese government.
Yeo began working with Chinese intelligence officers as early as 2015. He initially targeted other Asian countries but later focused on the United States.
Yeo’s conviction raises concerns that citizens of Singapore, which has an ethnic Chinese majority, could be regarded with increased suspicion by the U.S. government. Although analysts believe the spying case is unlikely to have a major impact on Singapore’s ties with the U.S. or China, most agree that the island’s efforts to maintain a diplomatic balance between the two countries will add to the rapid deterioration of U.S.-China relations in the lead up to the U.S. Presidential election in November.