May 12, 2004 – LAWFUEL – A former special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation pleaded guilty this morning to making false statements to the FBI when he failed to disclose a sexual relationship with an “asset” he had recruited to obtain intelligence information about the People’s Republic of China.
James J. Smith, a 60-year-old resident of Westlake Village, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of making false statements in United States District Court in Los Angeles. By pleading guilty, Smith admitted that he made a false statement to the FBI during a security reinvestigation interview in August 2000, when he concealed the fact that he had a nearly 20-year intimate relationship with Katrina Leung, a counterintelligence asset who Smith supervised.
The FBI employed Smith as a special agent from 1970 until November 2000. For most of his career, Smith worked in Los Angeles in the FBI’s Counterintelligence Squad that focused on the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In 1982, Smith recruited Leung to work as an FBI asset. Subsequently, Leung was tasked to collect counterintelligence information from the PRC and provide it to the FBI. In 1983, Smith and Leung began a sexual relationship that lasted until December 2002.
On August 9, 2000, Smith was interviewed for an FBI security reinvestigation to determine if he should continue to have access to classified information. During this interview, Smith stated that he was not aware of any circumstance in his life which could have a bearing on his suitability for continued access to classified information. Smith also stated that he was not concealing any activity or conduct which could be used to influence, pressure, coerce or compromise him in any way or which could have an adverse impact on his character, judgment, stability, discretion, trustworthiness or responsibility. As Smith knew, these statements were false and concealed the material fact that Smith had been, and remained at the time, engaged in an improper intimate relationship with Leung.
As part of his plea agreement with the government, Smith has agreed to cooperate fully with federal authorities looking into any possible damage to national security which may have resulted from his misconduct. In addition, Smith has agreed to continue to abide by prior agreements that require him not to disclose classified information or other information acquired through performance of his FBI duties.
Smith pleaded guilty to count two of a four-count superseding indictment that was filed on February 24, 2004. The remaining counts of that indictment – which charge Smith with one count of mail fraud and two counts of gross negligence in the handling of two documents relating to the national defense – will be dismissed in return for Smith’s plea and cooperation.
Smith pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on January 10, 2005. As a result of his guilty plea, Smith faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Leung is named in a five-count indictment that charges her with two counts of obtaining and copying documents relating to the national defense and three counts of possessing and retaining documents relating to the national defense. Pre-trial motions are being litigated in Leung’s case, and she is expected to go to trial in 2005.
Both cases are the result of a continuing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.