A State Department employee with top secret clearance took payments to spy for China for the last five years, according to Justice Department officials.
The staffer, Candace Claiborne, is being charged with “obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI, both felony offenses, for allegedly concealing numerous contacts that she had over a period of years with foreign intelligence agents,” said a Justice Department memo.
Claiborne is accused of repeatedly contacting two Chinese intelligence agents, who provided her with gifts and money, including “cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, an Apple iPhone and laptop, Chinese New Year’s gifts, meals, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend,” the press release said.
Claiborne, who worked at the State Department since 1999, reportedly acknowledged that she knew the two Chinese intelligence officers were actually “spies” but cooperated with them anyway in exchange for “tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits” for over five years.
“Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit,” acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord said Wednesday.
“Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division.”
Claiborne has worked numerous posts in the State Department since 1999, including “embassies and consulates” in Iraq, Sudan, and China.
Claiborne was arrested Tuesday and appeared in a D.C.-based court on Wednesday.
The FBI investigation of Claiborne included surveillance done under FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), Reuters reported in a tweet.
She could face a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
“U.S. government employees will be held accountable for failing to honor the trust placed in them when they take on such sensitive assignments,” U.S. Attorney Channing Philips said.
This isn’t the first time a government employee was caught spying for China.
In 2016, an FBI employee pled guilty to passing along sensitive data to the Communist Chinese government in exchange for prostitutes and cash.