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Ex-U.S. Guard Sentenced to 9 Years in China Spying Case

A file photo from October 2009 shows (left to right) U.S. Consul General Brian L. Goldbeck, U.S. State Department's Deputy Director of Overseas Buildings Operations Lydia Muniz, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, Vice Governor of Guangdong province Wan Qingliang, and Vice Mayor of Guangzhou city Cao Jianliao, shoveling at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new U.S. Consulate compound in Guangzhou, China. Source: ChinaTopix via AP Photo
A file photo from October 2009 shows (left to right) U.S. Consul General Brian L. Goldbeck, U.S. State Department's Deputy Director of Overseas Buildings Operations Lydia Muniz, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, Vice Governor of Guangdong province Wan Qingliang, and Vice Mayor of Guangzhou city Cao Jianliao, shoveling at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new U.S. Consulate compound in Guangzhou, China. Source: ChinaTopix via AP Photo

March 5 (Bloomberg) -- A former civilian guard at a U.S. consulate compound being built in China was sentenced to nine years in prison after admitting that he tried to sell classified photographs and information about the building to the Chinese.

Bryan Underwood, 32, learned of his punishment today in federal court in Washington after pleading guilty in August to attempting to communicate national defense information to China. He planned to sell the information and access to the compound under construction in the southern city of Guangzhou for as much as $5 million, according to the U.S.

“Bryan Underwood betrayed America’s trust by attempting to sell access to secure areas of the very U.S. Consulate compound he was charged to protect,” Lisa Monaco, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, said in an e-mailed statement.

Underwood was charged in 2011 with attempting to pass secret information to China’s Ministry of State Security and making false statements. The guard lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market in March 2011 and then devised a plan to sell the information, the U.S. said.

Underwood sneaked a camera into the compound and took photographs of a restricted building, the U.S. government said. He also wrote a letter to the Chinese ministry expressing interest in initiating a business arrangement, according to court papers.

Underwood is “very sorry for all that has occurred and he understands he must be punished,” his lawyer, Erich Ferrari, said in an e-mail.

“He is looking forward to rebuilding his life,” he said.

The case is U.S. v. Underwood, 11-cr-00261, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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