A federal complaint was unsealed Wednesday charging Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, of Washington, D.C., and an employee of the U.S. Department of State, with obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI.
The felonies alleged that Claiborne concealed numerous contacts she had over a period of years with foreign intelligence agents, according to officials.
“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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord for National Security. “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.”
The FBI arrested Claiborne on March 28.
He is facing up to 20 years for obstructing an official proceeding. The maximum penalty for making false statements to the FBI is five years in prison, according to authorities.
“Candace Claiborne is charged with obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements in connection with her alleged concealment and failure to report her improper connections to foreign contacts along with the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits they provided,” said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips. “As a State Department employee with a Top Secret clearance, she received training and briefing about the need for caution and transparency. This case demonstrates that U.S. government employees will be held accountable for failing to honor the trust placed in them when they take on such sensitive assignments”
According to the court affidavit, Claiborne began working as an Office Management Specialist for the Department of State in 1999.
She has served overseas at a number of posts, including embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq, Khartoum, Sudan, and Beijing and Shanghai, China.
As a condition of her employment, Claiborne maintains a Top Secret security clearance. Claiborne also is required to report any contacts with persons suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency, according to the affidavit.
Despite such a requirement, the affidavit alleges, Claiborne failed to report repeated contacts with two intelligence agents of the People’s Republic of China, even though these agents provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years.
According to the affidavit, the gifts and benefits included cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, an Apple iPhone and laptop computer, Chinese New Year’s gifts, meals, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend.
Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, the affidavit alleges, while others were provided through a co-conspirator.
According to the affidavit, Claiborne noted in her journal that she could “Generate 20k in 1 year” working with one of the Chinese agents, who, shortly after wiring $2,480 to Claiborne, tasked her with providing internal U.S. Government analyses on a U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue that had just concluded.
Claiborne, who allegedly confided to a co-conspirator that the Chinese agents were “spies,” willfully misled State Department background investigators and FBI investigators about her contacts with those agents, the affidavit states.
After the State Department and FBI investigators contacted her, Claiborne also instructed her co-conspirators to delete evidence connecting her to the PRC agents, the affidavit alleges.
The defendant is innocent unless proven guilty.
Claiborne pleaded not guilty in federal court.