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Ex-State Dept. Official Gets 40 Months in Prison for Spying

Claiborne gave documents to Chinese agents in exchange for gifts.

Former State Department official Candace Marie Claiborne, who was accused of spying for the Chinese government and misleading investigators, was sentenced to 40 months in prison on Tuesday, the Justice Department announced.

The 62-year-old, who had pleaded guilty in April, also received three years of supervised release and a fine of $40,000 for conspiracy to defraud the United States. She was found to have lied to law enforcement and background investigators and to have hidden “extensive contacts with, and gifts from, agents of the People’s Republic of China, in exchange for providing them with internal documents from the U.S. State Department,” the department said.

“Chinese intelligence agents convinced Candace Claiborne to trade her integrity and confidential information of the United States government for cash and other gifts for herself and her family,” Assistant Attorney John General Demers said. “Claiborne withheld information and lied repeatedly about these foreign intelligence contacts. Violations of the public’s trust are an affront to our citizens and to all those who honor their oaths. With this sentencing, justice has been imposed for these dishonorable criminal acts.”

Acting Assistant Director John Selleck added, “The targeting of U.S. security clearance holders by Chinese intelligence services is a constant threat we face, and today’s sentencing shows that those who betray the trust of the American people will be held accountable for their actions.”

Claiborne joined State under the Clinton administration in 1999 as an office management specialist. She worked overseas at embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq; Khartoum, Sudan; and Beijing and Shanghai, China. As the holder of a top secret security clearance, Claiborne was required to report any contacts with persons suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency, Justice noted.

But she failed to report repeated contacts with two Chinese intelligence agents, even though they “provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years. The gifts and benefits included cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, Chinese New Year’s gifts, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend,” the release said. Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, while others were provided through a co-conspirator.

The internal documents Claiborne provided in exchange dealt with topics ranging from economics to visits by dignitaries between the two countries at a time of a U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue. Having confided to a co-conspirator that she knew the Chinese agents were “spies,” she wrote in her journal that she could “Generate 20k in 1 year” working with one of the PRC agents.

After being contacted by State and FBI investigators, Claiborne instructed co-conspirators to delete evidence.

Claiborne was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Judge Randolph Moss.

Her case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Gillice, John Hill for the District of Columbia, and Deputy Chief Julie Edelstein and Trial Attorney Evan Turgeon of the Justice National Security Division Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.