WASHINGTON, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – A former US Navy petty officer could be jailed for life after being convicted of attempted espionage for trying to pass classified information to people he thought worked for Russia, but were really US investigators.
A federal jury in Virginia took just 90 minutes on Wednesday to find Robert Patrick Hoffman II, 40, guilty.
Prosecutors said Hoffman, who spent most of his 20 years in the Navy working on submarines as a cryptologic technician, and had top secret security clearance, last year gave classified information about how to track US submarines and how the United States tracks foreign warships, to people he believed were Russian operatives.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating Hoffman last year after learning that he spent three weeks in Belarus in 2011 and met President Alexander Lukashenko, wrote a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, who covered the case.
In September last year, the FBI sent Hoffman a letter, which purported to be an offer from Russian government agents in Moscow who offered him "generous compensation" in exchange for technical information.
Assistant US Attorney Alan Salsbury said Hoffman made three “drops” at a state park in Virginia after receiving the letter. One of the drops contained a flash drive with copies of documents, some marked “top secret,” that showed how to track American submarines and how the United States tracks foreign warships.
Hoffman’s attorneys said in his defense that he went to the FBI after the third drop and asked for help catching his contacts. Witnesses testified that Hoffman never asked for or received compensation for providing the information.
Hoffman, who retired from the Navy in 2011 with the rank of petty officer first class, will be sentenced in December.