HOUSTON — A 23-year-old illegal alien from China – who threatened to shoot school children while he was in an internet chat session in July 2018 – was sentenced Thursday to more than five years in federal prison for possessing a firearm as an illegal alien, and aggravated identity theft.
This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Xiangyu Zhang, an illegal alien from China residing in La Marque, Texas, was sentenced to 61 months in federal prison on March 14; he received 37 months for the firearms conviction, and a mandatory consecutive 24 months for identity theft. Zhang pleaded guilty to both charges on Dec. 14, 2018.
Zhang illegally remained in the United States two years after his temporary visa expired.
Zhang first came to the attention of law enforcement in July 2018 when – during an internet chat session on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Crisis Line – he threatened to use firearms to kill school children. Despite him using the VA chat line, Zhang is a not a U.S. veteran.
Law enforcement arrested Zhang at a gas station near his residence July 10, 2018. At that time, he was sitting in a vehicle with two loaded firearms, including an AM-15 rifle. Both firearms had rounds in the chamber ready to fire.
Following Zhang's arrest, law enforcement found a passport belonging to a woman who lived in the Dallas, Texas, area. Zhang had stolen the woman's purse containing the passport in August 2017 after he served as her Uber driver. Within hours of stealing her purse, Zhang attempted to purchase several high-end items online from Apple using the woman's identity without her permission.
Law enforcement also found a picture of a fake U.S. passport page with Zhang's picture and the woman's passport number on Zhang's phone.
A few months after stealing the purse, Zhang also defrauded Bank of America in March 2018 for more than $11,000. In late June 2018, and a few days before making the threats on the VA chat line, Zhang stole an IRS refund check from his neighbor's mailbox and deposited it into his bank account.
Zhang remains in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prison correctional facility.
After he completes his prison sentence, Zhang will be transferred to ICE custody and placed in removal proceedings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.