WASHINGTON — A career State Department official, posted to sensitive locations across the globe, has been charged with concealing her contacts with two Chinese intelligence agents who showered her and family members with gifts and travel worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, was named Wednesday in federal court documents that outlined the alleged relationship with the two agents of the People’s Republic of China who during the course of five years provided cash, meals, tuition payments, the use of a furnished apartment, phone and laptop computer.
The gifts and contacts, federal prosecutors allege, were never disclosed as required by Claiborne, who received the largess in exchange for her access to “sensitive diplomatic data.”
Candace Claiborne was first brought into the State Department in 1999, under none other than President Bill Clinton as an office management specialist with subsequent postings in Iraq, China, Libya and Sudan, was arrested Tuesday.
During her early days, she had multiple assignments overseas, including several countries in the Middle East and China.
Oddly enough, these are also countries who have funneled money to the Clinton Foundation during the now infamous pay-to-play scandal Hillary was running while she was in charge of the Department of State.
Wang Wenliang, a Chinese billionaire and donor to the Clinton Foundation and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, has been expelled from China’s top legislature after being caught up in a widespread cash-for-votes scheme.
Wang’s $2 million donation to the Clinton Foundation in 2013 made waves when it was disclosed last year because of his ties to the Chinese government. More recently, his name surfaced amid news that McAuliffe (D) was the subject of an FBI investigation.
Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, the Justice Department’s national security division chief.
According to court documents, Claiborne once noted in a journal that she could “generate 20K in one year” for working with one of the Chinese agents. That agent, prosecutors alleged, directed Claiborne in 2011 to provide an internal analyses on a U.S.-China economic dialogue shortly after wiring $2,480 to Claiborne’s personal bank account.
The exchange built into an increasingly more lucrative relationship that not only enriched Claiborne, but an unidentified family member, prosecutors allege. That family member, described in court documents as “Conspirator A,” allegedly received commitments from Chinese agents to pay nearly $50,000 in tuition to study fashion design at Raffles Design Institute at Donghua University in Shanghai.
While at the university, arrangements were made for the student to live in a fully furnished apartment and receive a monthly stipend that prosecutors said Claiborne “knew and approved of.’
When the student was subsequently implicated in an undisclosed “serious crime” while studying in China, the intelligence agents allegedly blocked local police from investigating and arranged for the student’s abrupt departure from the country, paying for the student’s “last minute” airfare back to the United States.
“Such an extraordinary step, in a country like China, makes plain the influence that (the Chinese intelligence agents) had within the PRC government,” prosecutors asserted in a 58-page complaint unsealed Wednesday.
“At one point, Claiborne, having second doubts about the relationship (with the Chinese agents), fretted to Co-Conspirator A, ‘I really don’t want my neck or your neck in a noose regarding another party/person that has made this possible for you,’ ” the complaint stated.
In a Tuesday interview with FBI agents in Washington, Claiborne acknowledged some of her activities, according to the complaint.
“Candace Claiborne is accused of violating her oath of office as a State Department employee, who was entrusted with top secret information when she purposefully mislead federal investigators about her significant and repeated interactions with foreign contacts,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Andrew Vale said.
During a court appearance Wednesday, Claiborne entered a plea of not guilty. A preliminary hearing is set for April 18.
If convicted, Claiborne faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on charges of obstructing an official proceeding and five years for making a false statement to the FBI.