Ex-CIA officer jailed for 19 years in China spy conspiracy

Jerry Chun Shing Lee pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee
Jerry Chun Shing Lee

A former CIA case agent has been sentenced to 19 years in prison for an espionage conspiracy with China.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 55, was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria after his guilty plea earlier this year.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage, but prosecutors and defence lawyers disagreed about the extent of the crime.

Prosecutors say Chinese intelligence officers gave Lee more than 840,000 US dollars and that Lee most likely gave them all the information he had from a 13-year career as a CIA case officer. They sought a prison term of more than 20 years.

Defence lawyers say the government never proved that the money came from China or that Lee ever carried out any plans to deliver government secrets.

The sentence was significantly longer than the 10 years sought by defence lawyers.

Lee’s lawyers disputed that their client’s conduct was anywhere near as severe as the government described. The lawyers noted that Lee admitted as part of his plea bargain that he agreed to engage in an espionage conspiracy with China, but never admitted that he actually divulged any secrets.

“What the government is describing is their worst possible nightmare,” said defence lawyer Nina Ginsberg.

Prosecutors acknowledged they had no direct evidence to prove what was transmitted, nor proof that the 840,000 dollars in cash that Lee deposited into his bank account over a three-year period came from China.

But prosecutors said Lee was never able to come up with a good explanation for where he got the cash. He ran a tobacco business in Hong Kong, but it was essentially a failure, prosecutors said.

“The only logical conclusion,” said prosecutor Neil Hammerstorm, is that that Chinese intelligence “must have been getting top-drawer, high quality (information) from this defendant.

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