Prosecutors: Retired Navy sailor tried to spy for Russians because he was ‘bored’
Norfolk, Va. – Federal prosecutors say in his attempt to spy for the Russians, Robert Hoffman III was willing to take a life as long as he was properly compensated.
It was just a part of the new information released in court Tuesday, detailing how FBI agents came to charge Hoffman, a retired Navy cryptologist, with attempted espionage.
According to prosecutors, Hoffman’s 2011 trip to Belarus is what piqued the interest of investigators; they made contact with him on September 21st of this year, posing as members of the Russian intelligence service.
Just nine days later, prosecutors say Hoffman dove right in, making his first of three ‘dead drops’ around Virginia Beach.
The packages, they say, contained documents he created from memory from his time in the Navy that defense officials have confirmed included classified information.
Before the FBI moved in, though, it seems that Hoffman had a change of heart.
According to prosecutors, he showed up at the FBI offices in Norfolk on October 31st, alerting them to his contact with the Russians–the FBI never told him that he was really talking to their undercover agents.
They say he admitted to passing along information that would help the Russian military, saying he did it because he was bored.
His attorneys told a judge in Hoffman’s detention hearing Tuesday that the FBI’s actions could be called entrapment.
“It sort of hinted at it, the way they orchestrated and contacted my client first,” said Keith Kimbell, one of Hoffman’s defense attorneys.
Prosecutors also mentioned that in Hoffman’s conversations with undercover agents, who he thought were Russians, he talked about “gifts” he left at the presidential palace in Belarus, and that he “looked forward to renewing their friendship.”
It’s why the FBI started the investigation in the first place: to try to figure out if Hoffman has indeed passed classified information to real foreign spies in the past.
“We don’t have any information that he had done anything illegal at all, other than what the government proffered here today,” said Kimball.
With the new information, the magistrate judge felt Hoffman was too much of a risk to the public to be granted bond.
Hoffman will be arraigned on December 19th.
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