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Jury convicts former sailor of attempted espionage

Aug. 21, 2013 - 05:14PM   |  
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NORFOLK, VA. — A federal jury convicted a former sailor of attempted espionage on Wednesday for trying to pass secrets to people he believed worked for the Russian government.

Robert Hoffman faces the possibility of life in prison when he’s sentenced in December.

Prosecutors said Hoffman gave classified information about tracking ships to people he believed were Russian spies, but in reality were FBI agents. Hoffman was a cryptologic technician in the Navy who held top secret clearance and retired in November 2011.

Hoffman spent much of his 20-year Navy career on submarines. After a trip to Eastern Europe in 2011, the FBI sent Hoffman a letter purporting to be from Russian intelligence officers asking him to provide “technical expertise.” Hoffman made three drops in all, including one in which he provided information about how the U.S. tracks foreign ships as well as how to track American submarines. Hoffman then approached the FBI in Norfolk and gave agents a diary and other evidence, saying he wanted to help catch the Russian spies.

In 1992, 2001 and 2009, Hoffman signed classified information non-disclosure agreements with the U.S. government.

Hoffman, originally from Buffalo, N.Y., retired with the rank of petty officer first class.

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