Robert Hoffman Espionage Trial (Updated)

(Latest news at bottom)

FBI targeted alleged spy by pretending to date him (Virginian Pilot)

Step one to building an attempted-espionage case: Respond to your target’s personal ad on Craigslist.

Step two: Pose as a single woman interested in a relationship and exchange dozens of emails.

Step three: Go on a couple of dates at Town Center.

That was how the FBI started to investigate Robert Patrick Hoffman II last year after learning that the former sailor from Virginia Beach had spent three weeks in late 2011 in Belarus.

An undercover FBI agent testified on Friday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk about her 5-month courtship of Hoffman. Her identity was concealed behind an 8-foot black curtain separating the witness stand from courtroom spectators.

The agent, a 22-year veteran who used the pseudonym “Tracy” on the dates and on the witness stand, testified that Hoffman spoke openly about his 20-year Navy career, his job as a cryptologic technician working aboard submarines, and his top-secret security clearance.

During their dinners at Yard House and Havana Nights in July and August 2012, the retired petty officer first class also talked about vacationing in eastern Europe and meeting the president of Belarus, the agent said. . . (read more)

 

Prosecutors: Alleged spy jumped at “false flag” bait  (Virginian Pilot)

Eight days after Robert Patrick Hoffman II walked into the FBI’s field office in Norfolk last October and asked for help nabbing some Russian spies he thought were trying to recruit him, the retired sailor sent his handler an email.

“The power is out,” read the email’s subject line – a phrase his handler had previously told him to use if something was wrong.

If all was well, the subject was supposed to read, “Flowers are blooming,” according to court documents.

Prosecutors highlighted the email Monday in U.S. District Court while trying to debunk defense assertions that Hoffman was interested in helping the government catch the Russian agents.

Hoffman – a retired petty officer 1st class from Virginia Beach charged with attempted espionage – is accused of passing classified information to undercover FBI agents posing as Russian intelligence officers. The crime carries a possible death sentence, but federal prosecutors say they will not pursue that penalty.

The case stems from a so-called “false flag” operation that the FBI launched after learning Hoffman had spent three weeks in 2011 in Eastern Europe. The FBI sent Hoffman a letter in 2012 that purported to be from Moscow. It contained a Russian medal and asked Hoffman whether he would be willing to provide “technical expertise.”

Hoffman, who spent most of his 20-year career working on submarines as a cryptologic technician, quickly agreed and started communicating via email with an FBI agent he thought was a Russian spy, witnesses said.

Hoffman made three trips to First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach in late 2012 to drop off information. During the third visit, he provided his handlers with a flash drive containing documents showing how to track American submarines and how the U.S. tracks foreign warships, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Salsbury said. . . . (read more)

 

Attempted espionage trial to wrap up in Norfolk (Virginian Pilot)

The case of a retired sailor from Virginia Beach charged with attempted espionage is expected to go to a jury today in U.S. District Court. This morning, prosecutors and defense attorneys are set to argue their respective points. . . .

 

Retired sailor guilty of attempted espionage  (Virginian Pilot)

A retired sailor from Virginia Beach was convicted Wednesday of trying to pass classified information to Russian spies.

Robert Patrick Hoffman II, 40, is set to be sentenced Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court. He faces up to life in prison for the one count of attempted espionage.

It took a jury 90 minutes Wednesday to reach a unanimous verdict and reject Hoffman’s defense that he actually was trying to lure his handlers into a trap.

Hoffman – a petty officer first class who retired in 2011 – passed classified information to undercover FBI agents posing as Russian intelligence officers. . . .

. . . . While stressing that he respected the jury’s verdict, one of Hoffman’s attorneys said he didn’t know what evidence they were able to review in 90 minutes.

“We are very surprised with the speed the jury reached a verdict over the lunch hour,” said attorney James Broccoletti. . . (read more)

 

Ex-sailor found guilty of attempted espionage (WAVY)

A former Navy sailor was found guilty of attempted espionage by a federal jury Wednesday.

In an indictment filed May 8 , U.S. officials say 40-year-old Robert Patrick Hoffman, II of Virginia Beach attempted to provide Russia with top secret information. At the time, Hoffman was already accused of trying to give the Russian Federation secret information.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations started looking into Hoffman last year after he spent three weeks in Eastern Europe. The FBI initiated a ‘false flag operation’ to see if Hoffman would give classified information to an undercover agent posing as a Russian operative. . . . (read more)

 

Former Navy Sailor Convicted of Attempted Espionage (FBI)

NORFOLK, VA—Robert Patrick Hoffman, II, 40, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was convicted today by a federal jury of attempting to provide classified information to individuals whom he believed to be representatives of the Russian Federation.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Royce E. Curtin, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Charles T. May, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement.

Hoffman faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when he is sentenced on December 2, 2013.

Hoffman was indicted on May 8, 2013, in a one-count superseding indictment charging him with attempted espionage.

According to court records and the evidence at trial, Hoffman is a U.S. citizen born in Buffalo, New York, who served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy until his retirement on November 1, 2011.

While serving in the navy, Hoffman held security clearances that granted him access to classified and national defense information relating to programs and operations in which he participated.

Even though he repeatedly signed agreements to not disclose that sensitive information, on October 21, 2012, he passed classified information to what he believed to be the Russian Federation. Hoffman, in fact, delivered the information to the FBI, which was conducting an undercover operation.

This case was investigated by the FBI and NCIS. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert J. Krask and Alan M. Salsbury and Trial Attorney Heather M. Schmidt of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

 

“Today’s verdict confirms the insider threat exists in our society and poses an enduring risk to our national security,” said Royce Curtin, special agent in charge of the Norfolk field office.

Anyone with knowledge of potential espionage activity, he said, should contact the FBI in Norfolk at 757-455-0100 or online at tips.fbi.gov.

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