SALT LAKE CITY — A retired Army officer from Utah admitted to attempting to give classified national defense information to a Chinese intelligence agency as part of plea agreement in federal court on Friday.
Ron Rockwell Hansen, 59, of Syracuse, admitted to one count of attempting to gather or deliver defense information. The charge carries a term of life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend a 15-year sentence.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson scheduled a sentencing hearing for Sept. 24. Hansen remains in custody in the Salt Lake County Jail.
Hansen was originally charged with attempting to gather or deliver defense information, being an unregistered agent of a foreign government, three counts of bulk cash smuggling, eight counts of structuring money transactions, and two counts of smuggling goods from the United States. He faced life in prison if convicted of those crimes.
Federal agents arrested Hansen last June in Seattle as he was preparing to board a flight to China. His arrest came after a four-year FBI investigation, 14 search warrants, dozens of subpoenas and witness interviews, and "techniques" prosecutors said they could not discuss in open court.
Hansen is a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer. He retired from the U.S. Army, where he served for 20 years as a warrant officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence. He speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian.
During his military service, the U.S. government entrusted Hansen with access to sensitive government materials, including closely held national defense information and classified documents and materials, according to the charges.
He also signed numerous nondisclosure contracts in which he acknowledged that giving away such information could be a violation of criminal espionage laws, according to charging documents.
The Defense Intelligence Agency hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006. He held top-secret clearance as part of his job for many years, the charges state.
Between 2013 and 2017, investigators allege Hansen regularly traveled between the United States and China attending military and intelligence conferences, and then provided information he learned at the conferences to contacts in China who were associated with the People's Republic of China's intelligence service, prosecutors say.
Hansen was paid at least $800,000 over the years, including receiving a $300,000 "consulting" fee, according to the charges.
Even after he stopped working for the government, investigators claimed Hansen attempted in 2012 to regain access to classified information. He was finally caught when he divulged what he was doing to a law enforcement source in an apparent effort to recruit that person, the charges state.
In 2012, he approached a U.S. Army Intelligence agent and "offered to work as a double agent against" China, according to court documents. He made the same offer to the FBI in 2015 as he continued efforts to regain access to classified information, the charges state.
But by that time, the FBI says it had already begun its investigation into Hansen.
Court records show Hansen had also accumulated a lot of debt.
He had built up about $200,000 in personal debt since 2012, the charges state. And his business, Nuvestack — a company that provided cloud computing information technology services — reported more than $1 million in losses in 2014, and failed to file taxes in 2015 and 2016, the charges state.