Utah man pleads guilty to selling national defense secrets to China

Photo courtesy of gorodenkoff via iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former U.S intelligence officer charged with trying to sell secrets to China is now pleading guilty after admitting that foreign agents targeted him for recruitment.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that the 59-year-old Ron Rockwell Hansen of Syracuse, Utah, accepted a plea deal Friday that calls for a sentence of 15 years.

Hansen pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government. Prosecutors say he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for providing information to Chinese agents from 2014-2018.

Hansen was arrested in June 2018. His illegal activity occurred several years after he retired from the U.S. government, but he still had access to classified information.

According to charging documents, Hansen spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army including time with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He left the military in 2006 but spent several months as a civilian case officer with the DIA.

He then started working at a pair of digital forensics companies but repeatedly sought work with the government, according to the felony complaint. Among other offers, he allegedly tried to work as a double agent against Chinese intelligence.

The FBI began investigating Hansen in 2014. Unaware of that investigation, he allegedly approached the FBI in 2015 and said Chinese security officials had offered him $300,000 per year to pass along information from U.S. conference and exhibitions.

In 2016, Hansen allegedly told an FBI informant that he was doing consulting for China’s Ministry of State Security.

Prosecutors say the two plotted to sell U.S. plans “regarding potential military intervention with China,” and met for roughly two hours near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport over a weekend last year. He was arrested on his way to the airport, where prosecutors say he planned to board a flight to China.

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