A longtime FBI employee with top-secret clearances pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of China and providing officials in that country with sensitive information, prosecutors announced Monday.
Kun Shan Chun was secretly arrested in March and held on charges of lying repeatedly about his contacts in China, who lavished him with prostitutes, cash and expensive hotel rooms, according to the criminal complaint.
Chun, 46, who was born in China and is also known as Joey, faces up to 10 years in prison.
His lawyer, Jonathan Marvinny, said in an email: “Today Joey Chun accepted responsibility for some mistakes in judgment that he deeply regrets. The truth is that Mr. Chun loves the United States and never intended to cause it any harm. He hopes to put this matter behind him and move forward with his life.”
Prosecutors accused Chun, who joined the FBI in 1997, of failing to disclose that he had contact with a Chinese national during an overseas trip, among other violations.
“Kun Shan Chun violated our nation’s trust by exploiting his official . . . position to provide restricted and sensitive FBI information to the Chinese Government,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, who heads the Justice Department’s national security division, said in a statement.
Authorities said Chun also did not tell the FBI about a business venture with a Chinese technology company called Kolion, according to the complaint. Since at least 2006, the FBI said, Chun performed research and consulted on behalf of the company in exchange for benefits that included foreign travel.
According to Kolion’s website, the company makes toner cartridges for copiers and printers.
During that period, the FBI said, Chun was also in contact with an individual affiliated with the Chinese government.
It’s not clear why the FBI started to investigate Chun, who was required to answer questions in 2012 as part of a routine review to determine if he should maintain his security clearances. He had access to sensitive and classified material in his job as an electronic technician in the FBI’s Manhattan field office.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Marvinny said, they agreed to drop the charges of lying on his FBI questionnaire if Chun pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the Chinese government.
The FBI, which is in charge of domestic counterintelligence, has taken aggressive steps to thwart Chinese espionage. The bureau has also seen a sharp spike in the number of economic espionage cases, most stemming from China and Russia.
According to prosecutors, Chun downloaded an FBI organizational chart from his work computer in 2013 and provided the document, without names, to the Chinese. In January 2015, he took photographs of documents in a restricted area at the field office that summarized details about “multiple surveillance technologies used by the FBI.” He later gave that information to a Chinese official, authorities say.
The FBI apparently became suspicious enough of Chun to mount an undercover operation in February 2015. The FBI’s undercover agent told Chun that he worked as an independent contractor for the Pentagon. During a meeting in New York later that year, Chun told the agent that his associates in China provided paid prostitutes and had given his parents money.
His parents apparently had stock in Kolion, too, and owned property in China.
Chun told the undercover agent that Kolion was backed by the Chinese government. The criminal complaint says Chun’s parents had urged him to work for these Chinese associates because of their investment in Kolion.
According to the complaint, Chun believed that his parents had told people in China that he worked for the U.S. government. He said that when he visited China, the associates gave him a “place to live and . . . a hotel.”
On one occasion, during a trip to Europe, Chun offered to introduce the undercover agents to his contacts in China, prosecutors said. In July 2015, the agent traveled to Hungary, where he met with Chun twice. During one meeting, authorities say, Chun told the agent that he knew “firsthand” that the Chinese government was involved in recruiting people who could assist it. In exchange, the government was willing to “provide immigration benefits and other compensation,” the complaint said.
The undercover agent said he had access to sensitive government information. Chun responded that his Chinese associates would be interested if that was the case.
In another meeting that was recorded in New York in October 2015, Chun said he had tried to make contact with a Chinese government official to “facilitate the passage of sensitive information” from the undercover agent.
Chun said he didn’t care if the FBI fired him but was concerned about whether the bureau had evidence of him associating with a foreign contact and failing to report it.
“I lied, I reported certain people [but] not everybody,” he said, according to the complaint.