A 59-year old executive of H-11 Digital Forensics based in Salt Lake City, Utah has pleaded guilty to spying on the United States for the benefit of China. Ron Rockwell Hanson, who will be sentenced on September 24, will likely spend at least 15 years in a federal prison.
The complaint can be read here.
Reporter Paighten Harkins covered the story for the Salt Lake Tribune:
Hansen worked with the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2000 to 2006 when he was a warrant officer in the Army. After leaving the Army in 2006, he was hired by the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he learned to speak both Mandarin-Chinese and Russian fluently as part of his training. He quit the job less than a year after he was hired to work for Salt Lake City-based H-11 Digital Forensics, a cybersecurity firm run by his brother Jon.
Chinese intelligence officials, Hansen said, targeted him in 2014. He then began meeting regularly with Chinese agents, according to the release. After his arrest, Hansen told prosecutors that Chinese agents had paid him thousands of dollars for information over the years.
As part of his espionage directive Hansen tried to solicit information from a Defense Intelligence Agency case officer between May 2016 and June 2018. He taught the case officer how to clandestinely record and transmit classified information to him, and he planned to sell it to China.
That officer reported Hansen’s request to the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the FBI started investigating. According to court documents, the FBI was already suspicious of Hansen because the agency knew he had previously tried to get access to classified information.
In March 2018, Hansen forwarded information requests from Chinese agents to the Defense Intelligence Agency case officers. The Chinese agents wanted the “China ops plan” — the U.S. military’s operation plan regarding potential military intervention with China — and would pay up to $200,000 for it, Hansen said, according to court documents.