Ten years for Aragoncillo, aide to VPs Cheney and Gore

Sharon Gaudin - InformationWeek - July 19, 2007

Leandro Aragoncillo, a former U.S. Marine and FBI analyst, spied out of White House, gets only 10 years

A former U.S. Marine and FBI analyst was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for espionage charges in connection with stealing classified national defense documents from the White House, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of State.

Leandro Aragoncillo, 48, received his sentence on Wednesday in U.S.

District Court in Newark, N.J. A release from the Department of Justice noted that there is no parole in the federal system, and Aragoncillo, who also was fined $40,000, can be expected to serve nearly the entire sentence except for potential "good-inmate" credits.

Aragoncillo used text messages, Web-based e-mail accounts and database queries to pull off the espionage. But it was the same technology that helped the government track him down and build a case against him. The e-mails sent, the phone calls made, and the stolen information archived on a set of CDs all left a digital trail that was his ultimate undoing.

"Those charged with protecting the nation have a special responsibility to maintain their oath of loyalty to the United States," said Kenneth L.

Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, in a statement. "As a former U.S. Marine and FBI analyst, Aragoncillo betrayed that oath, violated our espionage laws, and now must suffer the consequences of his actions."

Aragoncillo's case marks the first time in modern history that someone has been charged with spying out of the White House.

The man who was a career Marine and had served under two vice presidents in the White House had pled guilty to stealing information in an attempt to foster a political coup in the Philippines, his home country. At his plea hearing last year, Aragoncillo admitted that he regularly transferred to his Philippine contacts national security documents classified as Secret. He also admitted traveling to the Philippines in January 2001 to meet his co-conspirators, including a visit to the Malacanang Palace, the official residence of the president of the Philippines.

In 2005, federal agents executed search warrants on the houses of Aragoncillo and his U.S.-based conspirator, Michael Ray Aquino, a resident of the Philippines who was in the country on a visa. Both men were arrested after agents found more than 736 classified documents between the two homes.

The arrests marked the end of what prosecutors called a "criminal conspiracy against the United States that spanned the globe, involved the theft of classified national defense documents" from the White House, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department.

The scheme included a group of conspirators who ranged from the former Marine turned FBI analyst to an ousted Philippine president to a foreign intelligence officer on the lam from double murder charges.

"The sentencing of Leandro Arangoncillo brings to a close a harmful and disgraceful story of how a formerly trustworthy FBI employee and U.S.

Marine can turn into an enemy of the American people and the American way of life," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Weysan Dun, in a written statement. "Aragoncillo and his cohort, Michael Ray Aquino, have come full circle in the justice system, and for them the circle ends at a federal penitentiary."

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