A former government employee has been arrested and charged with providing top-secret documents to an operative working for Chinese intelligence in exchange for $25,000 and lying to investigators.
Kevin Mallory, 60, from Leesburg, Virginia, was taken into custody by federal authorities Thursday and appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to face charges. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted, but prosecutor John Gibbs said in court Mallory could face the death penalty "if certain conditions are met."
Mallory, dressed in a grey tank top and black shorts, was granted a court-appointed attorney by the judge during his brief court appearance. He is expected back in court at 2 p.m. Friday.
Mallory worked for the State Department from 1987 to 1990 and held various positions for federal agencies and government contractors until 2013, according to an affidavit written by an FBI agent in support of the criminal complaint. His top-secret security clearance was terminated in October 2012 when he left government service. He told investigators he was self-employed at GlobalEx, a consulting firm he founded in 2010.
Prosecutors allege Mallory, a U.S. citizen who speaks fluent Mandarin, traveled to Shanghai in March and April and met with a person who said he worked for the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), a Chinese think tank that the FBI said frequently provides cover for Chinese intelligence operatives.
According to the affidavit, Mallory consented to a search of a device he used to communicate with the Chinese operative during an interview with FBI agents on May 24. Investigators allegedly discovered messages on the device from Mallory to the operative in which he described obscuring classification markings on documents transmitted to the operative.
In one message on May 5, Mallory allegedly told the operative "your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid for," according to the affidavit.
The FBI agents said they found a handwritten index of eight documents Mallory is charged with providing to the operative. Four of the documents were found stored on the device, the government said, and three contained classified information.
Mallory told the FBI agents he received separate payments of $10,000 and $15,000 from the operative, according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors also charged Mallory with making material false statements for allegedly misleading FBI agents during the May interview.
Bo Erickson contributed reporting from Alexandria.