A retired Department of Homeland Security agent who claims to have worked as a “security specialist” for Elon Musk at SpaceX was one of five men indicted as part of an alleged scheme to discredit US-based critics of the Chinese government, court filings revealed this week.
Derrick Taylor, a 60-year-old now working as a private investigator based out of Irvine, Calif., was charged for his ties to what the fed’s described as a “transnational repression scheme to silence critics of the People’s Republic of China Residing in the United States.”
Taylor is alleged to have destroyed evidence and lied to investigators when confronted with claims that he accessed and distributed sensitive information from a restricted federal database related to dissidents living in the US. The data that included their passport information, residences, flight records, and photographs, according to the court documents.
The website for Taylor’s private investigation firm noted that he worked for “twenty-five years as a Federal Agent with the Department of Homeland Security” – and touts his purported past work for Musk in an bid to entice new clients to pay for his services.
“After my tenure with DHS, I served three years as the personal Security Specialist to Elon Musk at SpaceX,” Taylor’s description says. “I specialize in asset and bank account searches, background searches, criminal and civil investigations. My company is based in Irvine and I service the entire State of California.”
The website does not elaborate on the nature of the work he purportedly performed for the billionaire. The claim is also included on Taylor’s LinkedIn page.
SpaceX is headquartered in Hawthorne, California – a short drive away from Taylor’s home base in Irvine. Musk founded SpaceX and remains the company’s chairman and CEO.
SpaceX operates the “Starlink” satellite internet service and is a federal contractor that frequently collaborates with NASA as part of its ongoing space exploration plans — including Musk’s long-term bid to reach Mars.
The Post could not independently confirm Taylor’s claims of employment by Musk or SpaceX.
Taylor’s LinkedIn page notes that he began work as a private investigator in January 2018. He left the DHS in Sept. 2011 after more than 21 years of service.
SpaceX representatives did not return The Post’s multiple requests for comment. Attempts to reach Musk’s camp were not immediately successful.
A man who answered to Derrick declined to comment when reached at the cell phone number listed on the website of Taylor’s company, DBM Private Investigator.
“I’ll talk to you later. I don’t have a comment as of now,” he said before hanging up.
Craig Miller, a longtime federal agent who works in DHS’s Emergency Relief Operations in Minneapolis, was indicted alongside Taylor in new filings on Thursday.
The other three individuals — Fan “Frank” Liu, 62, of Jericho, New York, Matthew Ziburis, a 49-year-old from Oyster Bay and Qiang “Jason” Sun, 40, of China, were previously indicted in March. They are accused of stalking and spying on US-based dissidents on behalf of the Chinese government.
The feds say Miller admitted under questioning that he provided the sensitive information from the restricted database to Taylor in exchange for a gift card. Taylor allegedly shared the information with a “co-conspirator” who was working with Lui.
Taylor initially claimed he obtained the information on the dark web.
“Liu, Ziburis and Sun used this information to target and harass these U.S. residents while acting on behalf of the PRC government,” the DOJ said in a press release.
Taylor is charged with obstruction of justice and making a false statement to the FBI. He faces 25 years in prison. The DOJ said Taylor and the other defendants “will be arraigned at a later date.”
“As charged, these individuals aided agents of a foreign government in seeking to suppress dissenting voices who have taken refuge here,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement.
“The defendants include two sworn law enforcement officers who chose to forsake their oaths and violate the law. This indictment is the next step in holding all of these defendants responsible for their crimes,” Olsen added.