Accused spy Larry Wu-Tai Chin owns real estate valued at more than $700,000, according to tax and land records in Maryland, Virginia and Nevada.
Chin, 63, a retired CIA analyst, is charged with spying for China for more than 30 years. A review of tax and land records indicates that Chin, either alone or with his wife Cathy, owns seven condominium apartments in Prince George's County, six in Alexandria, six row houses in Baltimore, a town house and a condominium in Prince William County, and two condominium apartments in Las Vegas. Most of the properties are mortgaged.
In 1981, Chin was a member of a group of 20 investors who sold a 430-acre parcel of farmland in Merced County, Calif., for $709,000. The sellers took back a mortgage of $632,850, according to Merced County land records, which indicate that the original of the document was to be returned to Chin.
In addition, Chin sold a three-bedroom home in Santa Rosa, Calif., where he worked for the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service from 1961 until 1970, for $75,000 in May 1984.
Chin told friends he acquired his properties with gambling earnings won through a mathematical system of playing blackjack that enabled him to supplement his government salary and allowed him to buy real estate and help pay for his children's education. Chin, who retired from the CIA as a GS 13 in 1981, when the maximum salary was $43,666, discussed his method of "counting cards" in blackjack with FBI agents who interviewed him shortly before his arrest Nov. 22, an FBI agent testified Jan. 3.
The government contends, however, that Chin received nearly $200,000 from the Chinese in return for his alleged espionage. Sources have said that the actual amount he received may have exceeded $1 million.
Chin is charged with 17 counts of conspiracy, espionage, and financial reporting and income tax violations. His property ownership is expected to come up at his trial, scheduled to begin Feb. 4, when prosecutors are likely to cite the properties as evidence of Chin's alleged espionage earnings and failure to report those earnings on his income tax returns.
Chin wrote an article several years ago for a local Chinese language newspaper, the Metro Chinese Journal, offering tips on how to get rich in real estate, according to the paper's editor, James Wei.
Most of Chin's real estate holdings are relatively inexpensive properties, often condominiums, that have increased sharply in value over the years. For example, Chin and his wife bought three apartments at Bolling Brook Towers in Alexandria for $70,000 in December 1978, adding to two other units they already owned in the complex. The three apartments were assessed for taxes last year at $119,600. Chin owns another apartment, valued at $72,700, at 4600 Duke St. in Alexandria, according to county tax records.
In Prince George's County, Chin owns seven one-bedroom apartments at the Brookside Park condominium complex in Oxon Hill, according to county tax records. The apartments, which Chin purchased in 1980, are assessed at $27,000 each.
In Baltimore, Chin bought six row houses from 1978 through 1980 for $59,800, according to city land records. They are now assessed at $94,790.
In Dale City in Prince William County, Chin owns an $83,500 town house, which he bought in 1972 for $32,270, and a condominium, assessed at $22,200, which he bought in 1980 for $21,000.
In Las Vegas, he owns two two-bedroom condominiums purchased in 1978 and now appraised at $38,540 each. His friends have said that Chin told them he gambled so heavily he was offered free air fare by casinos.
Chin's tenants in the various apartments describe him as a model landlord. "Every once in a while he'd call and ask if you were having any problem with the apartment or if you needed anything," said Lillian Wenk, who lives in one of Chin's Oxon Hill apartments. "It surprised all of us when he got arrested for this."