A former Central Intelligence Agency officer has been charged with spying on the US and selling state secrets to China, the Department of Justice said Monday.
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, was arrested Friday after a sting operation in which he allegedly accepted cash from an undercover FBI agent and said he wanted the “motherland” to succeed, prosecutors said.
Ma, a naturalized US citizen born in Hong Kong, had Top Secret clearance while working for the CIA from 1982 to 1989. Following his retirement, he lived and worked in Shanghai before settling in Hawaii in 2001.
Over the course of a decade, Ma and an unnamed relative who also worked for the agency, conspired “to communicate classified national defense information” to China, the DOJ alleges.
The scheme began over three days of meetings in Hong Kong in March 2001, in which the ex-officers handed over info on the CIA’s personnel, operations and tactics to Chinese intelligence officers, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday.
Part of the meeting was caught on video, including a portion where Ma can allegedly be seen pocketing $50,000 in cash for the secrets.
Ma later got a gig as a contract linguist for the FBI so that he could access classified info to provide to his Chinese handlers, prosecutors alleged.
For six years, “Ma regularly copied, photographed and stole documents that displayed U.S. classification markings such as ‘SECRET,’” the DOJ said.
He allegedly took some of the secret docs and images on trips to China, and would return with thousands of dollars and pricey gifts, such as a new set of golf clubs.
Over the course of two in-person meetings last spring, Ma confirmed his espionage activities to an undercover FBI agent he believed was a member of China’s intelligence service, prosecutors said.
He is expected to make his first appearance in federal court in Honolulu Tuesday on charges of conspiring to gather and communicate national defense information for a foreign nation. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
No defense lawyer was listed on court records for him.
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