According to the Justine Department, a veteran state department employee has been accused of concealing her contacts with Chinese intelligence agents; she had access to sensitive information as well.
Candace Marie Claiborne, 60-year-old received tens of thousands of dollars in gift, according to the criminal complaint.
She has been charged with obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI.
She appeared in Court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty; she was arrested earlier on Tuesday.
Her career with the state department started in 1999, and she has worked at various foreign missions since then, including China, Iraq, and Sudan.
The justice department said in a statement that she had top-secret security clearance, and was supposed to report any contacts with individuals suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency.
“Claiborne failed to report repeated contacts with two intelligence agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), even though these agents provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years.”
She was accused of getting $2,500 from a Chinese agent in 2011 in exchange for information regarding U.S. economic policy in relation to China.
The statement went on to say that, Claiborne purportedly confided to a co-conspirator that the agents were “spies” but willfully mislead the state department and the FBI about her contacts with those agents. It also alleged that after being contacted by the state department and the FBI about the allegations, she asked her co-conspirator to get rid of the evidence connecting her to the Chinese agents.
She made her first appearance on Wednesday in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia. A preliminary hearing was set for April 18.
If found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding, a person can be jailed for a maximum of 20 years, and maximum five years term can be given to anyone making false statements to the FBI, so if convicted of both the charges, Claiborne could face up to a maximum of 25 years in prison.
The State Department has not yet commented on the case, and the revelations come ahead of President Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week.