Retired Utah Army officer admits to spying, selling classified information to China

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A retired Army officer from Utah admitted Friday to spying and selling classified national defense information to China for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 59, of Syracuse, pleaded guilty to attempting to gather or deliver defense information as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors. The charge carries a term of life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend a 15-year sentence.

“Today, a Utahn was convicted for spying on behalf of a foreign nation. Those are words that we’ve never uttered here on the courthouse plaza,” Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber said after the hearing. “What should be sacrosanct in our character as Americans is this: We do not betray our country.”

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson scheduled a sentencing hearing for Sept. 24. Hansen remains behind bars 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.

The charge he pleaded to stems from his arrest in Seattle as he was preparing to board a flight to China last June with classified information. But Hansen admitted to much more in the plea agreement.

Hansen retired from the Army as a warrant officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence. The Defense Intelligence Agency hired him as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006. He held a top secret clearance for many years, and signed several non-disclosure agreements during his time at the agency and as a government contractor. He speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian.

Authorities say Hansen was motivated by money.

“There were some debts on Mr. Hansen’s behalf that ultimately probably prodded him into this life,” said Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigations assistant special agent in charge.

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