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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Secret-Spilling Ex-Navy|Sailor Gets 30 Years

(CN) - A 20-year Navy sailor who thought he was providing classified defense information to Russia was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison.

Robert Patrick Hoffman II, 40, had been convicted this past summer after a five-day jury trial of attempted espionage, as charged in the one count superseding indictment.

Evidence at trial showed that the Buffalo, N.Y.-born Hoffman had access to classified national defense information as a cryptologic technician-technical (CTT) for the Navy.

Some months after Hoffman's Nov. 1, 2011, retirement from the Navy at the rank of petty officer first class, the FBI suspected that Hoffman would commit espionage against the United States by divulging classified information to benefit a foreign government.

"As part of this investigation, undercover FBI agents posing as operatives of the Russian Federation contacted Hoffman seeking defense information," the Justice Department said in a statement. "In a series of responsive e-mails and other communications, Hoffman advised that he looked forward to 'renewing [a] friendship' with his purported Russian contact, was 'willing to develop a mutual trust,' and wanted compensation for his activities in the form of job assistance or payments based upon the risk and effort involved. Hoffman also emphasized, however, that the need for 'security [was] paramount' and suggested they communicate by physical, rather than unsecure electronic, means.

"In accordance with this request, undercover agents posed a series of questions to Hoffman and directed, if he chose to reply, that he should signal his willingness to do so by means of a coded reply and then leave his answers on a pre-arranged date in the hollow at the base of a tree at a dead drop site located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. On three occasions in September and October 2012, Hoffman did just that and filled the drop site with encrypted thumb drives containing answers to the questions posed to him by persons he believed to be Russian agents. In his answers, Hoffman supplied, among other things, national defense information classified at the levels of secret and top secret/sensitive compartmented information. Following these disclosures, FBI and NCIS agents arrested Hoffman on December 6, 2012, and the court ordered him detained.

The 30-year sentence was handed down to the Virginia Beach man in Norfolk.

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