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Federal Criminal Lawyers Representing Chinese Nationals

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it arrests a Chinese national every 10 hours. These arrests frequently lead to prosecution, and those who are convicted can face incarceration in U.S. federal prison along with other severe penalties.

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Attorney Nick OberheidenChinese Nationals Team Lead
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The tenuous nature of the international relations between the United States and China has had a significant impact on the efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to identify, target, and prosecute Chinese nationals living in the United States. The DOJ has significantly enhanced these efforts in recent years; and, in a recent statement, the DOJ announced that it arrests a Chinese national in the U.S. every 10 hours.

These arrests target a variety of different federal crimes, ranging from intellectual property theft to harassment and intimidation. Broadly speaking however, when it comes to targeting Chinese nationals, the DOJ’s efforts focus on three main priorities: (i) corporate espionage and theft, (ii) acts taken on behalf of the Chinese government on U.S. soil, and (iii) other activities that have the potential to compromise U.S. national security interests.

The DOJ is Aggressively Targeting Chinese Nationals for Criminal Prosecution in the United States

Recently, the DOJ has publicized a number of cases involving the arrest and prosecution of Chinese nationals. The purpose of publicizing these cases has been not only to promote the DOJ’s efforts to the American public, but also to send a message to Chinese nationals and the Chinese government. Illegal acts committed on U.S. soil and/or that target U.S. citizens or companies will  not be tolerated, and the DOJ will use the full weight of its vast resources to aggressively pursue anyone suspected of unlawfully seeking to advance Chinese interests at the expense of the U.S. government or U.S. citizens or businesses.

Some examples of the DOJ’s recent efforts to target Chinese nationals include (Oberheiden P.C. did not represent to the individuals charged in these matters):

1. UCLA Researcher Arrested for Destroying Hard Drive During FBI Investigation

A Chinese national and researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was arrested in August 2020 after allegedly destroying a hard drive that was believed to have been used in connection with the transfer of proprietary software to China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT). According to the DOJ, the Chinese national also falsely denied association with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on his J-1 non-immigrant visa application.

If convicted of destroying the hard drive (which constituted evidence in a federal law enforcement investigation), the Chinese national faces up to 20 years of federal imprisonment. The case is being handled by the DOJ’s Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.

2. Two Chinese Nationals Charged with Attempting to Steal Biological Research from Harvard

In January 2020, the DOJ charged two Chinese nationals with attempting to steal biological research from Harvard University. According to the DOJ’s press release, the Chinese nationals, ages 29 and 30, sought to smuggle the research through coordination with Dr. Charles Lieber, age 60, who had entered into a contractual relationship with China’s Wuhan University of Technology and was a participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan. If convicted, each of the Chinese nationals faces a multi-year term of federal imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in statutory fines.  

3. DOJ Charges Chinese Nationals with Conspiring to Act as Illegal Foreign Agents on U.S. Soil

In October 2020, the DOJ announced charges against eight defendants, including Chinese nationals, who are accused of acting as illegal agents for the People’s Republic of China and committing other federal crimes. According to the DOJ, “[t]he defendants, allegedly acting at the direction and under the control of PRC government officials, conducted surveillance of 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.”

Each of the Chinese nationals charged in connection with the alleged conspiracy face a maximum sentence of five years of federal imprisonment in the United States.

These cases represent just a tiny sampling of the extremely large number of federal cases targeting Chinese nationals in the United States. The DOJ is continuing to file new charges on a daily basis, and it is aggressively pursuing maximum sentences in these cases.

Our Lawyers Represent Chinese Nationals in the U.S. and Abroad

At Oberheiden P.C., we represent Chinese nationals in the U.S. and abroad in federal investigations, grand jury proceedings, and criminal trials. Our lawyers are highly experienced in matters involving the DOJ, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other federal law enforcement agencies. We provide skilled and strategic representation for matters involving allegations such as:

  • Economic espionage
  • Intellectual property (IP) theft
  • Cybercrimes
  • Malign foreign influence
  • Acting as an agent of a foreign government
  • Making false and fraudulent statements to the federal government
  • Aggravated identity theft
  • Smuggling
  • Mail fraud and wire fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Tax fraud
  • Conspiracy and attempt

In addition to representing Chinese nationals who are currently residing in the U.S., we also provide representation for those who are residing in China (or elsewhere overseas) and who are at risk for being extradited to the United States for federal criminal prosecution. Regardless of where you are currently located, our lawyers can help you, and we can deal with the U.S. federal authorities on your behalf in order to protect you against the risks of standing trial in federal court on U.S. soil.

We Help Our Clients Avoid Charges and Protect Them Against Harsh Sentences in Federal Court

In many cases, we are able to resolve our clients’ cases without charges being filed. If you are a Chinese national and you are under investigation by the DOJ, FBI, or any other federal law enforcement agency, our lawyers may be able to protect you against facing a criminal complaint or grand jury indictment. If it is too late to avoid charges, we will seek a favorable result through pre-trial litigation and negotiations, and we will fight for your freedom at trial if necessary. At Oberheiden P.C.:

  • We terminate federal investigations without charges being filed.
  • We help our clients avoid prosecution following the issuance of criminal complaints and grand jury indictments.
  • We negotiate plea deals that protect our clients’ finances, freedom, and reputations.
  • We get charges dismissed in federal district court.
  • We secure sentences that are well below the maximums established by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden



Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney


Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

FAQs: Facing an Investigation or Criminal Prosecution in the U.S. a Chinese National

Q: What are the potential consequences of facing prosecution in the U.S. as a Chinese national?


As a Chinese national, facing criminal prosecution in the U.S. can have severe consequences. In addition to statutory fines and imprisonment pursuant to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Chinese nationals convicted of federal crimes can face removal (deportation) and other immigration-related consequences as well. Many of the federal crimes for which the DOJ is currently targeting Chinese nationals carry prison terms of 10 years, 20 years, or longer.

Q: How is facing prosecution as a Chinese national different from facing prosecution as a U.S. citizen?


Facing federal charges as a Chinese national differs from facing charges as a U.S. citizen in a number of important ways. However, foreign nationals are entitled to many of the same constitutional protections as U.S. citizens, and there are various other similarities as well. Many of the differences relate to the DOJ’s motives and the immigration consequences involved, and this makes it imperative for Chinese nationals who are facing prosecution in the U.S. to choose federal defense counsel with specific experience representing non-U.S.-citizens in federal criminal cases.

Q: What is required in order to establish criminal culpability in a U.S. federal criminal case?


In U.S. federal criminal cases, the DOJ has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the jury must be close to 99% certain that the defendant committed the alleged crime (or crimes). Importantly, intent is an element of many federal crimes; and, in many cases, arguing lack of intent will prove to be an effective defense strategy.

Q: What should I do if I am a Chinese national and I am under investigation by the DOJ or FBI?


If you are a foreign national and you are being investigated by the DOJ or FBI, you need to engage federal defense counsel immediately. You should choose a law firm that focuses its practice on federal defense, and whose attorneys have extensive experience on both sides of federal criminal cases.

Q: What else do you need to know when facing an investigation or criminal charges in the U.S. as a Chinese national?


Facing a federal investigation or federal criminal charges in the U.S. presents severe risks regardless of your nationality and regardless of the other circumstances involved in your case. In order to protect yourself to the fullest extent possible, the most important thing you can do is to engage experienced federal defense counsel right away.

Schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation with a Federal Defense Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C.

Are you facing a federal investigation or federal charges in the U.S. as a Chinese national? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact us promptly. To speak with one of our senior federal defense lawyers in confidence, call 888-680-1745 or request a free and confidential case assessment online now.

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