White House Spy Sentenced to 10 Years

By Krista Kjellman

Jul 18, 2007 2:44pm

The former Marine at the center of the first case of espionage at the White House in modern history was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for stealing and passing on top secret documents. "There’s no doubt you did betray a position of trust that very few people are privileged to occupy," U.S. District Judge William H. Walls said to the spy, Leandro Aragoncillo, at the hearing. Aragoncillo, a former U.S. Marine who worked in the White House and then for the FBI, pleaded guilty to four espionage charges last May, the most serious of which — conspiracy to transmit national defense information — could have carried the death penalty. But under his plea agreement, Aragoncillo faced 15 to 20 years in prison heading into today’s hearing in federal court in New Jersey. Judge Walls accepted a motion citing Aragoncillo’s cooperation with the investigation to deliver a sentence below that range. "Aragoncillo took the most solemn of oaths as a U.S. Marine and FBI analyst to protect his country and its security," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said at the time Aragoncillo pleaded guilty. "His betrayal is profound and a disservice to his country and all the men and women in military and security positions around the globe who take the oath and serve with honor and integrity." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Aragoncillo worked at the White House for almost three years under both Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney. Following his retirement from the Marines, he worked as an FBI intelligence analyst at the Fort Monmouth Information Technology Center in New Jersey. According to court papers, Aragoncillo, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified documents off White House and FBI computers.  He was accused of passing those documents — some of which were damaging dossiers on the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — onto opposition politicians planning a coup in the Pacific nation. As first reported by ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, Aragoncillo was recruited to spy during a July 2000 state visit to the Clinton White House by then-Filipino President Joseph Estrada. Officials told ABC News Estrada and his aides enticed Aragoncillo, who was half a million dollars in debt, with small amounts of money and appeals to ethnic loyalties. Court papers also said Aragoncillo demanded the Filipino officials find jobs for his relatives living in the Pacific nation. Even after Estrada was forced out of office for corruption,  authorities say Aragoncillo continued to funnel secret documents to him in an apparent attempt to start a coup. Aragoncillo was arrested in September 2005 after trying to access a computer outside of his clearance. One of his co-conspirators, Michael Ray Aquino, a former officer of the Philippine National Police who resided in Queens, N.Y., was sentenced to six years and four months for taking U.S. secret documents from Aragoncillo in an effort to undermine the Philippine government. "I am sorry for what I did," Aquino, who had pleaded guilty one year ago to spare himself a life sentence, said at his hearing Tuesday. "I never had the intention to harm the United States. I love this country." Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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