Actress: The DOJ wrongly convicted my ex-cop husband as a ‘Chinese spy’

"I am speechless at how far they will go to win," said Martha Byrne, a former soap opera star who says her husband was wrongly convicted of spying for the Chinese government.

"I am speechless at how far they will go to win," said Martha Byrne, a former soap opera star who says her husband was wrongly convicted of spying for the Chinese government. (Photo provided to Alpha News)

A daytime Emmy-winning actress and soap opera star is speaking out against the conviction of her husband, a retired New York City police officer.

After what happened to her own family, she has a warning for others about what she believes is the weaponization of the federal government.

At the age of 15, Martha Byrne became a soap opera star on “As the World Turns.”

Byrne joined Liz Collin Reports to talk about her own life’s latest turn as her husband, Michael McMahon, a former NYPD sergeant turned private investigator, was convicted of being a spy, acting as an agent of China.

“My husband was highly decorated, 75 medals of honor on the NYPD. He got the combat cross given to him for a shooting in the Bronx, a gang-related shooting. He was in a shootout in Times Square on New Year’s Eve where he saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives … he was in a severe car chase accident and the subject that ran him off the road had 19 prior arrests … my husband chased him in the car and hit a telephone pole, 50 miles an hour, ending his NYPD career, which was devastating to him because he loved the job,” Byrne explained.

That’s when McMahon became a private investigator and started working for what Byrne called some of “the most respected defense attorneys in the tri-state area.”

“He got a phone call in fall of 2016, a routine case from a translation company in Queens, New York,” Byrne said. “They (the translation company) had a client who had money stolen from a business in China, and the man was allegedly laundering the money here in New Jersey. So, they wanted a licensed New Jersey private investigator to do some background searches, assets, LLCs, you know, does he own a lot of cars? Like, where is he spending this money?”

It turns out, the people who hired McMahon were connected to the Chinese Communist Party. One of the men he was hired to investigate was a former Chinese official who fled to America after being accused of corruption, the New York Post reported in a June 2023 article on the case.

Michael McMahon (center), a former NYPD sergeant turned private investigator, was convicted of acting as an illegal agent for China. (Pipe Hitter Foundation)

Byrne said her husband spoke to two federal agents about the case in 2016 and 2017 and then never thought about it again. But, three years later, the FBI showed up at their door before dawn to say “he failed to register as a foreign agent” and was accused of “interstate stalking.”

“My husband notified the local police every time he was doing surveillance. He did invoices. He did reports, surveillance reports. He saved everything to this day. He didn’t delete anything. I mean, this is so insane. I mean, they came into my house. My poor children, the trauma that they’ve instilled on my children is unforgivable. They never went to his home office. They never took his guns. They never took his computers. They didn’t take his phone. They didn’t take his notes. We handed in his guns the next day with the local police,” Byrne said.

“This whole case is horrifying, and my husband committed no crime. He was allowed to do it as a licensed PI.”

McMahon’s case was part of the federal government’s effort to crack down on the CCP’s Operation Fox Hunt, which the DOJ describes as an “extralegal repatriation effort” targeting Chinese expats through coercion and harassment.

McMahon’s arrest was announced in October 2020 by FBI Director Christopher Wray during a press conference at the Department of Justice.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2023. (FBI)

“There’s not one, there’s not one email, text, invoice that has anything to do with a foreign government,” Byrne said.

But, as she explained, “even without any evidence” her husband was charged.

“What’s interesting is that the client never asked him to do anything illegal. They hired an NYPD retired sergeant. Do you really think they’re going to tell him, ‘Hello, I’m a Chinese agent, here’s my card, we’re going to make you be a part of our harassment campaign for a few thousand dollars?’ I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous … I am speechless at how far they will go to win. It’s all about the win. It’s not about our safety,” Byrne said.

For the job in 2016, she says her husband was paid $5,000.

At the age of 15, Martha Byrne became a soap opera star on “As the World Turns.” (Photo provided to Alpha News)

Her family paid a $500,000 bail, their bank accounts were shut off, and the press camped outside their home.

After a three-week trial this summer, where not one person testified against her husband, he was found guilty of three charges and will be sentenced in July. He is facing years in prison.

“This is why it’s so scary. People have to understand that if they want to get you, they’re going to get you, whether it’s legal or not, they will just change the rules because nothing he did was outside the scope of what he was legally allowed to do as a private investigator and that has been done a million other times. So it’s very, very disturbing,” Byrne said.

“We have lost so much, but they haven’t taken away what we’ve built before that. And I think what’s important is that they just tried to destroy us. They tried to break us. They tried to take down a family. I have built this family. I worked hard. Our kids are wonderful kids.”

Byrne reached out to Alpha News after she saw many similarities in her husband’s case to what took place in The Fall of Minneapolis and the prosecution of four former Minneapolis police officers.

“I think people don’t understand how they get away with it. I think there’s a missing link here and I think we have to educate the viewer to understand that when you’re faced with a crime, they’re going to do everything they can to get you and win … we don’t know the loopholes. We don’t know the relationship with the judge and the prosecutors. We don’t know that. So, I feel like when I watched your documentary (The Fall of Minneapolis) … you just told the truth. You just showed the facts, and you showed the evidence … and we weren’t allowed to show so much evidence at our trial that would exonerate him,” Byrne said.

The Pipe Hitter Foundation is raising money and awareness for the McMahon family.



Liz Collin

Liz Collin has been a truth-teller for 20 years as a multi-Emmy-Award-winning reporter and anchor. Liz is a Worthington, Minnesota native who lives in the suburbs with her husband, son and loyal lab.