A State Department official is accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments, vacations, an apartment, and Apple electronics from spies for the Chinese government and lying about it to the FBI, the federal government revealed on Wednesday.
According to the Justice Department, Candace Marie Claiborne, a 60-year-old State Department employee, accepted gifts from Chinese agents for more than five years and, when finally caught, instructed co-conspirators to erase evidence of her alleged crimes.
“Claiborne failed to report repeated contacts with two intelligence agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), even though these agents provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
According to a federal affidavit, Claiborne began working as an office management specialist at the State Department in 1999. She then took jobs overseas, including at embassies and consulates in Iraq, Sudan and China. She maintained a Top Secret security clearance, which required her to report any contacts with people believed to be affiliated with foreign intelligence agencies.
But Claiborne failed to make those disclosures, according to the affidavit.
Chinese government agents wired cash to Clairborne’s bank account, bought her an Apple iPhone and laptop, provided Chinese New Year’s gifts, meals, vacations, tuition to a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment and a monthly stipend, the federal documents state.
Claiborne also appears to have believed that the agents funding her lifestyle were “spies.”
The affidavit states that Claiborne wrote in a journal that she could “generate 20k in 1 year” through her affiliation with the Chinese agent. Shortly after, she was wired $2,480 and tasked with “providing internal U.S. Government analyses on a U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue that had just concluded.”
After being contacted by the State Department and FBI about her relationship with the spies, Claiborne instructed her co-conspirators “to delete evidence connecting her to the PRC agents.”
Claiborne is listed in the State Department’s most recent telephone directory as an employee in the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts.
“Candace Marie Claiborne is a U.S. State Department employee who possesses a Top Secret security clearance and allegedly failed to report her contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents who provided her with thousands of dollars of gifts and benefits,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord said in a statement announcing the unsealed indictment.
“Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit. Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division.”
Claiborne was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday and made her first appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A hearing was set for April 18. She faces up to 20 years in prison for obstructing an official proceeding.