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Man Who Tried To Spy For China To Face Charges In Utah

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, of Syracuse, Utah, was arrested on Saturday by the FBI on charges of attempted espionage for the Chinese.

A Davis County, Utah, man who allegedly tried to spy for the Chinese will face federal charges in Salt Lake City after he waived his hearing rights in Washington state where FBI agents recently arrested him, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.

It’s not clear when Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, of Syracuse, will be transported to Salt Lake City, Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney John Huber, said. It could be days or even weeks before the former Defense Intelligence Agency officer arrives in the state, depending on the U.S. Marshal Service’s schedule.

“Because he [Hansen] will have court hearings, they will probably keep him close — but they manage where he will be,” Rydalch said of the U.S. Marshals.

Hansen on Monday made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle following his arrest on Saturday as he looked to catch a flight from Seattle to China. He faces 15 charges, including the attempted transmission of national defense information to the Chinese government, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and cash smuggling.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian A. Tsuchida issued a detention order against Hansen, who did not make an argument for his release. Chris Black, a Seattle attorney representing Hansen, did not respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors allege in a 41-page criminal complaint that his extensive efforts to pass information he collected from national security conferences and sell export-controlled technology to people in China earned him at least $800,00o since 2013. His next court date has not been set. In a separate court filing Monday prosecutors said they plan to introduce evidence collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

According to a LinkedIn account that appears to be his, Hansen is a “serial entrepreneur” with an interest in disruptive technology, clean tech, agriculture and education who suggests “Choose a better path ... Change your life ... Change the world …”

The profile also shows that Hansen was on the board of directors for Ballet West and claims that he is an expert on China, after more than 175 trips to the country.

“I have an extensive network of Chinese government, business, military, and academic contacts at the national, provincial and local levels,” his profile states.

This case drives home the troubling reality of insider threats and that current and former clearance holders will be targeted by our adversaries. — Eric Barnhart, FBI special agent

In a statement, Justice Department officials, including Huber, highlighted the serious allegations while praising the investigative work of the FBI.

“This case drives home the troubling reality of insider threats and that current and former clearance holders will be targeted by our adversaries,” said Eric Barnhart, the FBI special agent who runs the Salt Lake City field office.

Fluent in Mandarin and Russian, Hansen retired in 2006 from the military after more than 20 years of service, the last six of which he worked as an intelligence case officer, court records show. He retired as a warrant officer from the U.S. Army with access to highly classified information and a background in intercepting communications and other intelligence gathering.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, part of the Defense Department and one of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, hired him back as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006 before he resigned that same year, according to court records.

He then went to work as a U.S. government contractor and regularly traveled for work to China, where he allegedly made contact with Chinese intelligence officers, court documents show. In recent years he tried repeatedly to offer his services to U.S. agencies as a double agent against the Chinese government.

Since leaving the military he registered several businesses in Utah with a Salt Lake City address, including Nuvestack Inc., a cloud computing company, and H-11 Digital Forensic Services, according to court records. Those businesses struggled financially, court records show. An email to Nuvestack seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Hansen was personally deep in debt, ranging from $150,000 to $200,000, and had borrowed money against credit cards belonging to relatives, court records show.


In 2014 the FBI began investigating Hansen, who voluntarily met with agents nine times, claiming to have been targeted by Chinese intelligence. Agents enlisted the assistance of Customs and Border Protection officers to search Hansen’s luggage as he returned to the United States from China. Officers found cash Hansen did not initially claim that totaled more than $10,000, above the legally required reporting threshold.

The FBI, during a court-authorized search of Hansen’s Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2016, found a document dubbed “Business Development” on his laptop that included the names of former Defense Department contacts, a government employee and the names of several U.S. politicians from Utah. According to the complaint, Hansen did not have business dealings with most of the people on the list.  

But he did connect with the employee, who worked as a Defense Intelligence Agency case officer and later became an FBI source against Hansen. They had just finished meeting near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, with Hansen suggesting the source get paid by the Chinese in exchange for sharing classified information, when FBI agents arrested Hansen as he approached the airport.

According to court records, Hansen was headed to China, where he first traveled to in 1981. It was the same year he helped found the American & Chinese Friendship Promotion Society, according to his LinkedIn account.

“We invite you to join us in our efforts to Change the World,” the profile states about the group and its aim to build life-long friendships and cross-cultural understanding. “We promise it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.”


Andrew Becker joined KUER in 2018 as the host and producer of an upcoming investigative podcast before becoming news director. He spent more than a decade covering border, homeland and national security issues, most recently for The Center for Investigative Reporting + Reveal in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse, with stories ranging from corruption and the expanded use of drones along the U.S.-Mexico border to police militarization and the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, terrorism and drug trafficking. His reporting has appeared in news outlets such as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and PBS/FRONTLINE, been cited in U.S. Supreme Court and District Court briefs and highlighted by John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight.” His work has been recognized by the Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists and been nominated for a National Emmy, among others. He has taught at the University of Utah, and won fellowships from John Jay College in New York City and the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He also sits on an advisory board for the National Center on Disability and Journalism, based at Arizona State University. He received a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.
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