Former US soldier sentenced to 30 years for espionage

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former US soldier was sentenced to 30 years in jail on Monday, Feb 10, 2014, for trying to spy on behalf of Russia, the US Justice Department said.

In September and October 2012, Robert Hoffman II, now 40, a 20-year veteran of the US Navy, turned over classified defence information to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents he believed were Russian, according to Virginia prosecutors.

In the Navy, Hoffman was deployed on US submarines where he worked with electronic sensors to collect information on potential adversaries.

In that role, he was awarded security clearances and agreed not to disclose information to unauthorised persons, the statement said.

During the FBI operation, Hoffman asked the undercover agents he thought were his contacts for "compensation for his activities in the form of job assistance or payments based upon the risk and effort involved," it added.

On three separate occasions, he turned over "secret," "top-secret" and "sensitive" information saved on an encrypted USB memory stick, leaving it, per prior agreement, in a hole at the base of a tree.

He was arrested in December 2012, charged in the spring of 2013 and found guilty after a five-day trial in August in Virginia. His sentence was made public on Monday.

"By attempting to hand over some of America's most closely held military secrets, Robert Hoffman put US service members and this country at risk," said Mr John Carlin, acting assistant attorney general for national security.