Latest Raided NYC Mayor Staffer Also Has Foreign Biz Ties

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty

The aide and fundraiser to New York City Mayor Eric Adams who became the most recent target of a federal sweep on Thursday has long-standing financial relationships with a foreign capital.

The probe swirling around the embattled mayor, which burst into public view last fall with a raid on a top campaign official’s residence, has so far centered on individuals linked to Turkey and potential that cash from Ankara had illicitly entered the mayor’s coffers. The New York Times reported that agents from the Justice Department’s Southern District carried out that earlier action, while the one this week was the handiwork of the Eastern District—which the paper noted has spent recent months rolling up influence operations linked to Beijing.

And the woman whose house agents raided, Special Advisor to the Mayor and Director of Asian Affairs Winnie Greco (born Zheng Qirong), has both influence as a longtime cash-gathering operative for Adams, and ties to China. In November, the New York Post reported that a company she controlled had received funding from the official propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s Beijing committee. The newspaper also revealed that two other organizations that received funding from government sources in China had identified her as a consultant, although Greco and City Hall argued that this was an error.

But The Daily Beast has found her trans-Pacific dealings reach back even even farther, to her time as an unpaid volunteer assistant to Adams in his previous position as Brooklyn borough president, and earlier still.

A campaign attorney for Adams noted his client faces no formal allegations of misconduct, and bristled at the suggestion foreign money may have reached the mayor’s coffers.

“The campaign has always and will always follow the law, and neither the mayor nor the campaign have been accused of any wrongdoing,” lawyer Vito Pitta told The Daily Beast. “Any unfounded implication that the campaign or the mayor accepted any funds from a foreign government is an outrageous and harmful attempt to sell a salacious story.”

Home of Longtime Aide to NYC Mayor Has House Raided by FBI: Report

Court and corporation records in New York State show that in 2012—when Adams was still in the New York State legislature—Greco created a company called the New York Sino Agricultural Sciences Organization at the same Bronx address the feds hit on Thursday. Local news reporting in 2016 identified this company as a “New York-based Chinese investor group" seeking to develop the site of a former prison facility in Orange County, New York, at the edge of the city’s metropolitan area.

The organization had earlier launched a service called Valley Fresh Direct, with the aim of exporting farm and artisan items from the area to China, and a paper from the region revealed the venture had inked a distribution deal with Shanghai Join Buy Co. Ltd., a state-backed retailer.

Around the same time, Greco had kicked off another project, this one a nonprofit: the S​​ino America New York Brooklyn Archway Association, created to arrange for a Beijing-built friendship arch to rise over the main street of Brooklyn’s Chinatown. In 2014, the Archway Association partnered with Chinese authorities on another project: financing a week-and-a-half long trip for Adams and his staff on the mainland.

A few months later, a Brooklyn blogger posted materials from a Freedom of Information request revealing that Greco had stage-managed a meeting between Adams—whose powers as Brooklyn borough president included influence on some real estate projects—and the leadership of Greenland Holdings, a development firm controlled primarily by Shanghai municipal entities. At that time, Greco boasted publicly of serving as Adams’ director of China-U.S. affairs, a role with no salary. She also headed another organization called the American Asia Economy and Culture Development Association Corp., which on its website described her as “a patriotic overseas Chinese” and touted its power in the U.S. and its backing from Beijing.

“It has played a great influence in promoting friendly economic and trade development and cultural exchanges between the Chinese and American governments,” an archived version of the site reads in translation. “It has been supported by the Chinese government; the Chinese National People's Congress; the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the China Friendship Association; and the Chinese Consulate General in New York."

Adams became an adamant endorser of the archway project, and blamed its ultimate failure in 2020 on “geopolitical tensions.”

But his relationship with Greco had proved successful for them both. In 2017, the year Adams won re-election as borough president, Greco’s Archway group and another company she founded, Brooklyn City Tours, partnered with the Chinese Consulate and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture to bring a Chinese New Year event to his office. In the years that followed, as Adams strove for City Hall, Greco held multiple high-dollar fundraisers for him, including a 2019 event where the New York Post reported one of the attendees was a man by the name of Lu Jianwang.

In 2023, the Justice Department arrested Lu and an associate for operating an illegal “police station” in New York that pursued U.S.-based dissidents on behalf of the Chinese government. As of last summer, the case had entered plea negotiations.

Greco faces a local scandal as well: an investigation into whether she obtained free work on her home in exchange for securing a job for the laborer.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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