The criminal complaint containing the charge against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was unsealed Monday morning, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
“The trail of Chinese espionage is long and, sadly, strewn with former American intelligence officers who betrayed their colleagues, their country and its liberal democratic values to support an authoritarian communist regime,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
He added, “This betrayal is never worth it. Whether immediately, or many years after they thought they got away with it, we will find these traitors and we will bring them to justice. To the Chinese intelligence services, these individuals are expendable. To us, they are sad but urgent reminders of the need to stay vigilant.”
Ma, 67, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Hong Kong. According to court documents, he began working for the CIA in 1982 and maintained a top-secret clearance. Ma also signed various nondisclosure agreements, in which he acknowledged his duty to protect government secrets during his time at the CIA.
He left the agency in 1989 to live and work in Shanghai, China, before going to Hawaii in 2001.
“The charges announced today are a sobering reminder to our communities in Hawaii of the constant threat posed by those who seek to jeopardize our nation’s security through acts of espionage,” U.S. Attorney Kenji Price said. “Of particular concern are the criminal acts of those who served in our nation’s intelligence community, but then choose to betray their former colleagues and the nation-at-large by divulging classified national defense information to China. My office will continue to tenaciously pursue espionage cases.”
The Justice Department claims court documents show Ma and his relative (identified as co-conspirator #1) conspired with each other and multiple Chinese intelligence officials to transfer classified national defense information for almost a decade.
The criminal acts allegedly began with a series of meetings in Hong Kong back in March 2001. The two accused traitors provided information to the foreign intelligence service “about the CIA’s personnel, operations, and methods of concealing communications,” the DOJ said. Some of the meeting was captured on videotape and shows ma counting $50,000 he received for delivering the intel.
The court documents go on to accuse Ma of seeking employment with the FBI to continue his intel-for-cash scheme. He succeeded and was hired by Bureau in 2004 at its Honolulu Field Office.
While working as a contract linguist, Ma was in charge of reviewing and translating Chinese language documents. Over the next six years, Ma would copy, photograph and steal documents marked “SECRET.” He even took some of the materials and images with him to China, to show to his handlers. He was given thousands of dollars in cash and expensive gifts in return for his services.
Ma confirmed his espionage activities to an FBI undercover employee in 2019. He thought the agent was a representative of the PRC intelligence service and accepted $2,000 in cash from him, thinking it to be Chinese money.
The former spy will make his first appearance before a federal judge on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.
He is officially charged with conspiracy to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report