U.S. Diplomat Who Conspired With Chinese Agents Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

A State Department employee has been jailed for three years after accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from Chinese agents trying to access internal documents.

Candace Marie Claiborne was sentenced to 40 months behind bars, three years of supervised release and a fine of $40,000 for conspiracy to defraud the United States, a Department of Justice press release explained.

The DOJ said Claiborne lied to law enforcement officials and background check investigators to hide her "extensive contacts with, and gifts from" Chinese agents. In return, she provided them with State Department documents on a range of topics, including economics and visits by dignitaries between the two countries.

Claiborne—who had a "top secret" security clearance—pleaded guilty to the charges in April. She had been a State Department employee since 1999 and served in multiple overseas postings, including in U.S. embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq, Khartoum, Sudan, and Beijing and Shanghai, China.

Claiborne repeatedly failed to report her contacts with Chinese agents, though her position required her to flag any interaction with individuals suspected of links to a foreign intelligence agency.

Instead, she accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits for her and her family over a five year period. This included cash wired to her bank account, presents on Chinese New Year, free vacations, paid-for tuition at a Chinese school, a furnished apartment and a monthly stipend.

The DOJ presented evidence that Claiborne knew her relationship with the Chinese agents—who she described as "spies" to a co-conspirator—was improper. She wrote in her journal that she could earn $20,000 in one year working with one of the Chinese agents, who had asked her to deliver internal U.S. analysis of a recent U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue.

Furthermore, once confronted by the State Department and FBI about the contacts, Claiborne told her co-conspirators to delete any evidence linking her to the Chinese agents.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said Claiborne "withheld information and lied repeatedly about these foreign intelligence contacts," having been convinced to "trade her integrity…for cash and other gifts."

Acting Assistant Director John P. Selleck said Claiborne abused the trust put in her by the U.S. government "at the expense of our nation's security." Selleck noted that Chinese intelligence services continue to target Americans with security clearances, and warned that those who "betray the trust of the American people" will be held accountable.

China, U.S., State Department, employee, agents
This file photo taken on May 11, 2018 shows the seal of the State Department at the State Department building in Washington, D.C. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty