The Justice Department charged a U.S. government contractor on Thursday with espionage after he allegedly sent classified documents to a foreign government, U.S. prosecutors announced.
Abraham Teklu Lemma, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethiopia, was charged in an Aug. 23 complaint, which was unsealed Thursday, on three counts: conspiracy, gathering or delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government and unauthorized possession of national defense information. Lemma was employed at the Department of State as an IT administrator and the Department of Justice as a management analyst, and had a top secret security clearance with access to classified information, according to a statement from the DOJ.
The criminal complaint claims Lemma retrieved, reproduced and deleted confidential information from intelligence reports and deleted the classification labels from reports between December 2022 and August 2023. Lemma then allegedly sent the confidential national defense information to a foreign official with ties to the country’s intelligence service.
— FBI (@FBI) September 21, 2023
In a charging affidavit, the Department of Justice accused Lemma of spying on the U.S. to help a country of which he was previously a citizen.
The FBI conducted a search of Lemma’s electronic accounts that verified that the photographic copies, notes, maps and sensitive information related to national defense given to the foreign official were in Lemma’s possession. An account with the country’s IP address accessed Lemma’s accounts more than 30 times while he was not present in that country, according to the FBI.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General are conducting the investigation. Lemma faces two espionage charges carries a sentence of any number of years up to life and a potential sentence of death, while the retention charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, according to a statement from the Attorney’s Office.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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