A former Defense Intelligence Agency case officer who allegedly sought out a new career as a double agent working for Beijing didn't catch his flight from Seattle to China on Saturday. Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, was arrested by the FBI as he attempted to leave the country, reports Reuters. Hansen—a Utah native who is fluent in Mandarin and Russian—is charged with selling US secrets to China for at least $800,000, AFP reports. According to an indictment, Hansen, who served in signals intelligence in the US Army, was based in Beijing for his work as a case officer handling US agents, but he failed to report meetings with Chinese intelligence agents and sought information on American military operations to sell to his Chinese contacts.
The indictment states that Hansen was in deep financial trouble, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, between 2013 and 2016, The 15 charges against Hansen include acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China and attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government, the BBC reports. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she didn't have any information on the case. "But certainly of late there have been some issues between China and the United States," she said, per Reuters. "We think China and the US are two major countries and both sides should do more things that strengthen cooperation and mutual trust." (Another American accused of spying for China was lured back to the US with a fake job.)