SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Ron Rockwell Hansen betrayed his country.
That’s what Utah’s U.S. Attorney claimed after Hansen pleaded guilty to attempted espionage in federal court.
Hansen, a former army intelligence officer, was facing multiple felonies related to offering classified information to Chinese operatives.
“What should be sacrosanct in our character as Americans is this: we do not betray our country,” said John Huber after Hansen admitted to the charges.
In federal court, Hansen appeared in handcuffs and wearing a jail jumpsuit from the Salt Lake County. Hansen pleaded guilty to attempted espionage and other charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.
In a factual statement, Hansen admitted that “in early 2014, agents of a Chinese intelligence service targeted me for recruitment and I began meeting with them regularly in China.”
“He was somewhat of a soft target he was not someone who was recruited in a hard environment,” said Paul Haertel, the FBI Special Agent in Charge. “He was recruited while he was working.
In the factual statement, Hansen claimed: “I received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for information I provided them, including information I gathered at various industry conferences.”
Hansen owned a modest home in Syracuse, but authorities claimed he was $1.2 million in debt. But he earned $800,000 from the Chinese for trading secrets about U.S. military readiness in a particular region. It’s money he laundered.
“One was very simple, you put cash on yourself and fly back to the United States,” said Tyler Hatcher of the Internal Revenue Service. “Once we figured that was going on he made it a lot more sophisticated. He had credit cards of businesses that he owned.”
Hatcher said Hansen would swipe a credit card to purchase an item while in China. He then said money would be transferred into his U.S. credit card account.
Hansen was heading to China with a handful of secret writings when he was arrested last fall in Seattle. He has been in jail since his arrest.
“It’s also a warning to us to ever be sensitive to the fact that there are other nations, other powers in the world who want what we have,” Huber said.
Court documents claimed others could still be indicted, possibly Chinese nationalists. The U.S. attorney wouldn’t confirm that. The plea deal calls for a 15-year prison sentence. It’s a far cry from life in prison had Hansen been convicted had he gone to trial.
He’ll be sentenced in September.