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Grand jury indicts Syracuse man on charges he spied for China

SALT LAKE CITY โ€” A federal grand jury has indicted a former U.S. intelligence officer from Utah on charges alleging he spied for the Chinese government in exchange for $800,000.

Jurors on Wednesday decided there is enough evidence against Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, of Syracuse, to support charges filed by federal prosecutors, including: 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.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

From 2013 to 2017, Hansen traveled to and from China, going to military and intelligence conferences and passing on what he learned to people with ties to China's intelligence service, even though he had signed nondisclosure agreements, according to the 41-page indictment.

Hansen allegedly sold the classified national defense information for at least $800,000, charges state. That included a $300,000 "consulting" fee.

Federal agents arrested Hansen in Seattle in May as he was preparing to board a flight to China. No attorney was listed for him in court documents.

A judge earlier this month granted prosecutors' request that Hansen remain in custody as the case is adjudicated, citing in court documents phone calls with business associates in which he allegedly joked about faking his death and said he would disappear by using a persona from when he worked in intelligence.

"I do have my escape route charted out," he said in one call, according to court documents.

"Although the defendant possesses no prior criminal convictions and proclaims to live a life of piety, the investigation reveals that the defendant's life is an utter facade permeated in nearly every facet with crime and deception," assistant U.S. attorney Robert Lund wrote at the time.

Hansen, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, has a background in signals and human intelligence and is fluent in Mandarin-Chinese and Russian, charges state. He worked for the agency as a case officer from 2000 to 2006, a job that gave him top secret clearance. After working in the private sector recovering data from computers, he did other government work until 2011, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors also allege Hansen had financial problems and racked up $200,000 in personal debt. His company, Nuvestack โ€” which provided cloud computing information technology services โ€” reported more than $1 million in losses in 2014 and failed to file taxes in 2015 and 2016, charges state.

In 2012, he approached a U.S. Army Intelligence agent and offered to work as a double agent against China. He made the same offer to the FBI in 2015 but the agency had already begun its investigation into Hansen, according to the indictment.

He was caught after informing a law enforcement source about what he was doing in a recruitment attempt, the charges state.

Hansen told FBI agents that Chinese officers gave him money by overpaying him for digital forensics products, according to the indictment. He gave the officers two thumb drives with classified information he wasn't authorized to retain.