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Judge denies bail, public defender to Bay Area man accused of spying for China

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SAN FRANCISCO — A U.S. judge said Wednesday that a California tour operator is a flight risk and denied him bail while he awaits trial on charges of carrying national security documents to officials in China.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Corley also ordered Xuehua Edward Peng to hire his own attorney, saying he had too many financial assets to qualify for a free public defender.

Peng, 56, appeared in U.S. District Court for Northern California after his arrest Friday at his Hayward home. He wore a red-orange jail uniform and used an interpreter to understand the judge and attorneys.

Peng has been charged with being an illegal foreign agent and delivering classified U.S. national security information to officials in China. Prosecutors have not disclosed the nature of the material. Peng has not entered a plea.

Assistant U.S. public defender Ellen Leonida argued in court for his release, saying Peng “has every motivation to stay here” and that his adult daughter and sister have offered their homes as bail guarantees.

The judge said she wasn’t satisfied that the presence of his family in California was enough to keep Peng from fleeing to China, where authorities say he has money, an apartment and a mistress.

Corley also told Peng that he will not be able to go through with the purchase of a new home.

Prosecutors say Peng participated in anonymous drops where he left money in hotel rooms in exchange for documents on a digital card provided by a person secretly working with the FBI.

He would then take the card and travel to Beijing to meet Chinese intelligence officers, prosecutors say.

Peng is a naturalized U.S. citizen who entered the country in 2001 on a temporary business visa. He has a background in mechanical engineering and is licensed in California as an acupuncturist.

Leonida has not returned messages seeking comment.

Public records list Peng as president of U.S. Tour and Travel in San Francisco, but no website for the company was found in an online search.

A neighbor described Peng as a quiet, friendly man who seemed to travel a lot and loved fancy cars.

Peng could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

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