Candace Marie Claiborne pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday to charges that she accepted gifts from Chinese spies and then lied about it to law enforcement officials while working for the Department of State.
A federal grand jury indicted Claiborne, 60, earlier in April on charges that she conspired to defraud the U.S., obstructed justice and made false statements. She faces up to 55 years in prison and the government could seize her home and a savings account if found guilty of a wire fraud charge. (RELATED: Feds Charge State Department Official In Chinese Spy Case)
The District of Columbia resident told federal officials conducting a background check for her top secret security clearance that she had not had contact with foreign agents, despite the fact she knowingly accepted thousands of dollars in gifts, vacations, an apartment, Apple electronics and tuition to a Chinese fashion school from Chinese spies, according to the indictment. (RELATED: Grand Jury Indicts State Dept Official On Charges She Hid Chinese Spy Links)
Claiborne eventually asked the two spies and another person identified in court papers only as “Co-Conspirator A” to delete communication records after she worried that federal investigators would catch her, according to the indictment.
“I hope you enjoyed your day. May Allah bless you with health and happiness,” Claiborne wrote in an e-birthday card to Co-Conspirator A. “Btw delete all email messages and contact information in your email and phone pertaining to [Co-Conspirator B] and [Co-Conspirator C].”
Co-Conspirators B and C were the unnamed Chinese agents. She had known the former since at least 2007 and the latter since 2012.
“I don’t want any trouble going forward ok – please do this immediately!” Claiborne continued. “Messages, nos, anything having to do with that fashion school your apartment anything – even from wechat, fb, skype, etc u got me?”
The indictment describes the Co-Conspirator A as “a close family member of Claiborne” who “previously lived with or near Claiborne in Washington, D.C. and in China.” He lost his student visa in China while facing potential, unidentified felony allegations.
Claiborne secured tuition money from the Chinese spies for Co-Conspirator A and later told him to say he received a scholarship if anyone asked.
She was required to disclose foreign contacts as a condition of maintaining her top secret security clearance and her job, but never did, according to the indictment. Keeping her position based on lies and deceit amounted to defrauding the U.S. government, the indictment said.
Claiborne was wired nearly $2,500 and was soon after asked to provide the U.S. government’s 2011 analyses of economic talks with China, according to the indictment.
Claiborne worked for the State Department as an office management specialist since 1999 and worked at various overseas embassies and consulates including in Iraq and Sudan. She worked in China from 2000 to 2005 and again from 2009 to 2012.
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