(CN) – A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who worked as deputy director in the Washington Liaison Office of the U.S. Pacific Command is charged with conspiring to send classified information to the Peoples Republic of China. Federal prosecutors say James Fondren Jr. provided top secret information to Tai Shen Kuo, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Taiwan who did business in the U.S. and in China.
According to an affidavit in support of the complaint, Fondren provided consulting services from his home to Kuo under the assumption that Kuo was giving the information to a Chinese political researcher and government consultant.
The so-called researcher was in fact a Chinese government official who was paying Kuo to collect certain documents and information from Fondren and other U.S. officials, the Justice Department says.
Fondren sent periodic emails to the Chinese official although he was unaware of the nature of Kuo’s relationship with the official or of the official’s precise status with the Chinese government, according to the complaint.
Kuo paid Fondren between $350 and $800 apiece for “opinion papers,” made up of classified and nonclassified information, and Fondren was aware that he could lose his job for it if it were discovered, according to the complaint.
Another U.S. official affiliated with Kuo was Gregg William Bergersen, a former Weapons Policy Analyst at the Arlington, Va.-based Defense Security Cooperation Agency in the Defense Department, who has pleaded guilty to espionage charges and was sentenced to 57 months in prison.
Upon his arrest in February 2008, Kuo admitted to giving Bergersen gifts, cash payments, dinners and money for gambling trips to Las Vegas, in exchange for information, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Kuo was arrested while staying as a guest at Fondren’s Virginia home in February 2008 and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
Fondren, if convicted, faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine.