CIA Agent Caught Spying For China For $50,000

Former CIA officer and FBI linguist Alexander Yuk Ching Ma pleaded guilty in Honolulu federal court on Friday to spying for China for over a decade, in exchange for $50,000.

CIA Agent Caught Spying For China For $50,000 1

A former CIA officer and FBI contract linguist accused of spying for China for at least a decade pleaded guilty on Friday in a federal courtroom in Honolulu.

The 72-year-old Alexander Yuk Ching Ma has been detained since his arrest in August of 2020. In a court filing, the Justice Department claimed to have gathered “a war chest of damning evidence” against Ma, which included an hour-long video showing Ma and an elder relative (who was also a former CIA officer) giving sensitive material to Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence officers in 2001.

Prosecutors claimed that Ma can be seen in the video counting the $50,000 he was paid by the Chinese operatives for his services.

CIA Agent Caught Spying For China For $50,000 2
This image contained in the criminal complaint against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma shows a screenshot made from a video by an FBI undercover employee taken of Ma in January 2019 during a meeting.
U.S. Justice Department via AP

In the course of a sting operation, prosecutors claimed he took thousands of dollars in cash as payment for prior acts of espionage and expressed his desire to see the “motherland” prosper to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Chinese intelligence officer.

According to the charging documents, he was accused of giving away secrets about CIA sources and assets, foreign operations, secure communication techniques, and operational tradecraft.

Ma entered a guilty plea on Friday to a charge of conspiring to obtain or provide foreign governments with information related to national defense, as per an arrangement with the prosecution. The agreement asks for a 10-year term, but Ma’s sentencing on September 11 will be decided by a court. He would have spent the rest of his life behind bars if not for the agreement.

Ma had been born in Hong Kong, had relocated to Honolulu in 1968, and in 1975, obtained U.S. citizenship. In 1982, he enlisted in the CIA, and the following year, he was sent abroad. He left the agency in 1989. Based on court documents, he had a top-secret security clearance.

Ma moved back to Hawaii in 2001 after spending time living and working in Shanghai, China. Prosecutors claim that after being employed as a contract linguist by the FBI in its Honolulu field office in 2004, he routinely took, copied, and photographed sensitive materials over the next six years. Prosecutors stated that he frequently took them on vacations to China, where he would return with lavish presents like new golf equipment and hundreds of dollars in cash.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson disclosed in court on Friday that Ma’s employment as a contract linguist on a part-time basis was a “ruse” to keep tabs on his communications with Chinese intelligence agents.

When Chinese intelligence agents provided Ma pictures of persons they were trying to identify in 2006, when he was living in Hawaii, Sorenson and Ma got in touch with the relative who was also a co-conspirator and persuaded him to divulge the identities of at least two of the individuals.

Ma admitted her guilt and stated that all Sorenson had said was accurate. Ma stated that he was aware that the material he was giving the Chinese intelligence officials may be used against the United States or in favor of a foreign country, and that he had signed non-disclosure agreements that would remain in force even after he left the CIA.

In 2021, Ma’s previous defense lawyer informed a judge that Ma thought he was experiencing memory problems due to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a defense motion, Ma’s older brother had Alzheimer’s ten years earlier and was incapacitated by the condition. According to the application, although the brother is named as a co-conspirator in the indictment against Ma, prosecutors chose not to prosecute him due to his Alzheimer ‘s-related incapacity.

In court on Friday, Sorenson stated that the co-conspirator had passed away.

A judge determined that Ma wasn’t suffering from a serious mental illness, ailment, or defect last year and that she was competent.

Recently, GreatGameIndia reported that former Royal Marine and Home Office immigration officer Matthew Trickett, 37, who was charged with spying for China, was found dead, according to Thames Valley Police.

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