ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A 60-year-old Virginia man and Army veteran could face life in prison – or possibly the death penalty – for transmitting top secret documents to a Chinese secret intelligence agent.
Prosecutors say Kevin Patrick Mallory’s tale of alleged espionage began when he left his Leesburg, Virginia, home and traveled to Shanghai in March and April this year. While there, he met with an individual who he believed was working for the People’s Republic of China Intelligence Service. Mallory was also planning to meet the agent’s boss during the visit, the Department of Justice said in statement on Thursday.
According to the affidavit, Mallory was stopped by a customs agent at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport after he failed to disclose $16,500 in cash that he held in two of his carry-on bags.
Andrew Vale, the assistant director in charge at the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office, said on Thursday night that Mallory headed to China with the express intent of abusing his top-secret clearance status.
“Furthermore, he allegedly misled investigators in a voluntary interview about sharing of this classified information,” Vale said. “The FBI will continue to investigate those individuals who put our national security at risk through unauthorized disclosures of information.”
On May 24 during Mallory’s voluntary interview with the FBI, the self-employed Mandarin-speaking consultant told the FBI that the Chinese agent informed him he worked for a China-based think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
In a statement on Thursday, acting assistant Attorney General Dana Boente said that since 2014, the FBI has found that Chinese intelligence officers frequently use the Shanghai Academy affiliation to cover up their real identities.
During his interview, Mallory consented to the FBI agents review of a device he used to communicate with the Chinese agent. It was then that the FBI saw Mallory had blacked out security classification markings on documents he supposedly transmitted.
“Analysis of the device also revealed a handwritten index describing eight different documents. Four of the eight documents listed in the index were found stored on the device, with three containing classified information pertaining to the same U.S. government agency. One of these documents was classified TOP SECRET, while the remaining two documents were classified SECRET,” a Department of Justice statement said. (Emphasis original.)
Mallory also told FBI agents that the only documents he transmitted were two unclassified white papers that he authored. The papers contained information about U.S. policy matters and Mallory said the Chinese agent paid him $25,000 for the articles.
The Virginia native’s top secret security clearance ended in October 2012 after he left a government job and began his life as a self-employed consultant with GlobalEx LLC. He previously worked with the U.S. State Department from 1987 to 1990.
Mallory is charged with violating the Espionage Act, and specifically, for gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government and for making false statements. He made his initial appearance at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
If convicted, Mallory could face life in prison. But depending on the specific nature of his alleged leaks, assistant U.S. attorney John Gibbs told the court on Thursday that Mallory could face the death penalty. Along with Gibbs, trial attorney Jennifer Kennedy Gellie of the National Security division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, will prosecute Mallory’s case.
Mallory is currently represented by federal public defender Geremy Kamens. Kamens did not immediately return a request for comment.