A former officer with the US Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested over the weekend for allegedly trying to spy on the United States for China, the Justice Department said on Monday.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation took Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, into custody on Saturday while he was on his way to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to get a connecting flight to China.
The department said he has been accused of trying to transmit national defence information to China and with receiving ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ while acting illegally as an agent for the Chinese government.
Hansen is the latest person in a string of former US intelligence officers to be swept up in criminal probes related to spying for the Chinese, says a Reuters report.
Earlier this year, former CIA case officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was indicted for conspiring to gather or deliver national defence information to China.
Another former US intelligence employee named Kevin Mallory is on trial in Virginia, also in connection with selling secrets to China.
In the new case announced Monday, prosecutors said that Hansen speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian.
He served as a case officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency while on active military duty from 2000-2006, and later continued that line of work as a civilian employee and a contractor.
He also held a top secret clearance for years.
The government said that between 2013 and 2017, he travelled between the two countries attending conferences and provided the information he learned to China’s intelligence service.
He was paid via wire transfers, cash and credit cards. He also allegedly improperly sold export-controlled technology.
“His alleged actions are a betrayal of our nation’s security and the American people and are an affront to his former intelligence community colleagues,” said John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
According to court records, the FBI started investigating his activities in 2014. He was unaware of the probe, and participated in nine voluntary meetings with federal agents in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Prosecutors say that during his meetings, he told the FBI that Chinese intelligence had tried to recruit him, offered to cooperate as a source and even provided thumb drives to the FBI that contained classified materials he was not authorised to have.
Hansen appeared before a magistrate judge in Seattle on Monday, and is charged in a 15-count complaint.
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