State Department

State Department employee charged with misleading FBI in China spy probe

The Department of Justice says 60-year-old Candace Marie Claiborne tried to cover up years of contacts she had with Chinese foreign intelligence agents

 

A veteran State Department employee has been charged with making false statements to the FBI about gifts she had received from Chinese intelligence agents, the Justice Department announced.

A criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday accuses Candace Marie Claiborne, who appeared before a judge, of concealing her contacts with the intelligence agents and failing to report gifts she had received from them, including an iPhone, a laptop and international travel.

Claiborne, 60, was arrested Tuesday. Family members who were in court declined to comment on her behalf.

Prosecutors said two intelligence agents provided Claiborne, who joined the State Department in 1999 and served in different overseas location, and her family with thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits over five years. Claiborne has served overseas at a number of posts, including embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq, Khartoum, Sudan, and Beijing and Shanghai, China.

"As a State Department employee with a Top Secret clearance, she received training and briefing about the need for caution and transparency," U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips said in a statement. "This case demonstrates that U.S. government employees will be held accountable for failing to honor the trust placed in them when they take on such sensitive assignments."

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The Justice Department alleges that she wrote in her journal that she could "generate 20k in 1 year" through her work with one of the intelligence agents, who shortly after wiring $2,480 to Claiborne, tasked her with providing internal U.S. Government analyses on a U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue that had just concluded.

Claiborne, who allegedly confided to a co-conspirator that the PRC agents were “spies,” willfully misled State Department background investigators and FBI investigators about her contacts with those agents, the affidavit stated.

“Candace Claiborne is accused of violating her oath of office as a State Department employee, who was entrusted with Top Secret information when she purposefully mislead federal investigators about her significant and repeated interactions with foreign contacts," Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office said in a statement. "The FBI will continue to investigate individuals who, though required by law, fail to report foreign contacts, which is a key indicator of potential insider threats posed by those in positions of public trust.”

If convicted, Claiborne face 20 years in prison. While in court Wednesday, she pleaded not guilty and faces a preliminary hearing April 18.

Fox News' Matt Dean and the Associated Press contributed to this report.