WASHINGTON — A former civilian guard at a US consulate in China pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he planned to sell secrets to Chinese security officials, the US Justice Department said.
Bryan Underwood, a 32-year-old American who worked at the US consulate in the southeastern Chinese city of Guangzhou, pleaded guilty to “attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government.”
Underwood worked at the Guangzhou consulate from November 2009 to August 2011 as a “cleared American guard”, a civilian with “Top Secret” clearance.
In March, 2011, Underwood “lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market,” the statement said reported.
He told US law enforcement he had “devised a plan” to use his security clearances to sell information to China’s Ministry of State Security for anywhere between $3 million and $5 million, according to the statement.
Underwood snuck a camera into the consulate in May and “took photographs of restricted building and its contents,” the statement said.
It added that he took notes on security system upgrades and drew a diagram of surveillance camera locations at the consulate.
State Department officials reviewed the information and reported that the leak “could cause serious damage to the United States.”
“Bryan Underwood was charged with protecting a new US Consulate compound against foreign espionage but, facing financial hardship, he attempted to betray his country for personal gain,” US assistant attorney general for national security, Lisa Monaco, wrote in the release.
Washington has found no evidence that Underwood successfully passed information along to Chinese authorities.