In a letter meant to be opened by family after his death, Ron Rockwell Hansen provided details for an obituary, including a declaration that he was “one of the most successful intelligence officers in the history of U.S. intelligence.”
Tapped phone calls and the letter provided evidence that Hansen may have been making preparations to “disappear,” federal prosecutors said in court documents accompanying spying charges against the Utah man.
Hansen, 58, who lives in a cozy cul de sac in Syracuse, is being held in a maximum security federal detention center in Seattle. He was arrested June 2, 2018, after an FBI sting in which he allegedly received secret U.S. military information for sale to Chinese agents, according to court records.
The U.S. Army veteran and former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency case officer could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted on the charges against him: acting as an agent of a foreign government, bulk cash smuggling, structuring illegal monetary transactions and smuggling goods out of the country.
Hansen for several years furnished Chinese agents with intelligence information and export-controlled encryption software in return for $800,000 and was preparing to hand over intelligence documents classified as secret, the FBI alleged.
“He seems like a nice guy,” Justin Jensen, who lives across the street from Hansen, said Friday.
Hansen and his wife often walked their dog through the neighborhood in the evenings, Jensen said.
Story continues below photo.
Jensen, sitting on the front porch with his dingo, Acey, said he had heard about the spying charges against Hansen.
“I guess it sucks for the most part, and it really sucks for him,” Jensen said.
A next-door neighbor whose house was adorned with U.S. flags did not want to be identified but offered that the Hansens were “so nice.”
Two other neighbors declined to be interviewed.
At Hansen’s house, a car sat in the driveway and a black and neon green mountain bike leaned on a bush by the porch. No one answered the door.
‘THEY’LL KILL YOU, YOU KNOW ...’
U.S. prosecutors filed documents in U.S. District Court in Seattle this month bolstering their contention that Hansen should be held without bail as an extreme flight risk. They said Hansen was stressed by failing business ventures and also had discussed with a confidential informant his preparations to flee the country if the alleged espionage was discovered.
“If we do this and something happens, you go into Canada and get on a plane and come here to China, then you’re taken care of for the rest of your life,” Hansen said in an April 5 phone conversation with the informant.
In another call five days later, Hansen told the informant he had worked closely with Chinese spy agencies, including the Ministry of State Security and the Beijing State Security Bureau, the FBI said.
“They’ll kill you, you know, if you f--- them over,” Hansen said, according to the wiretap transcript. “They are not above sending someone here to hunt you down and kill you.”
The FBI alleged Hansen and his wife “created a plan to flee to China” because of his business struggles and mounting personal debt. Hansen is listed as the owner or executive of five Salt Lake City-based software or consulting firms.
In wiretapped calls with a business partner, Hansen repeatedly joked about faking his own death. Other times he seemed more serious, according to the records.
If the businesses failed, he said, “... I’m going to go back and get one of my fake personas that I still have all of the Social Security numbers for and stuff like that when I was in the intelligence world, and I’m gonna disappear and you guys are never gonna find me again.”
He added, “I do have my escape route charted out.”
In a 2016 conversation, Hansen and his wife “discussed how his children would divide his $2 million life insurance policy upon his death,” the FBI documents said.
On May 1 this year, Hansen’s wife told her husband, “This is all part of whatever plan we’re headed for, maybe China for the rest of our lives,” according to a phone tap.
Hansen’s wife has not been charged and there is no indication in the court record that she had any knowledge about the alleged espionage.
In the 2016 letter intended for his family, Hansen offered an obituary sketch of his life.
Born Sept. 5, 1959, as the second oldest of 11 children, Hansen grew up in Alpine and graduated from American Fork High School. He attended Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, receiving a bachelor’s degree in international business and political science.
He served a mission in Taiwan for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Our dad was a spy,” said the obituary text supplied by Hansen. “He was one of the most successful intelligence officers in the history of U.S. intelligence. He was also a forensic scientist, a cloud-IT innovator, a Ballet West board member and a serial entrepreneur.”
In his instructions to his children, Hansen said in the letter, “If you are reading this letter, then I am dead. Sorry about that. … There is nothing more you can do for me at this point. Take care of your mother. I am still a vampire. I will be watching.”
After his Army and DIA careers, Hansen in 2007 established software business connections in China, and for a time had an office there, the FBI said.
The FBI said it began investigating Hansen in 2014. A year later, Hansen met nine times with Salt Lake City FBI agents, offering to work as a double agent.
Hansen met in Seattle this month with a DIA officer whom the FBI said Hansen approached in 2016 in an effort to recruit the man to provide military secrets.
The DIA gave its officer and the FBI an actual top-secret military document to show to Hansen at a Seattle hotel, the indictment said. Hansen took extensive notes and asked detailed questions.
Agents then arrested Hansen, who had a flight to China scheduled from Seattle. He was booked into the King County jail and turned over to U.S. Marshals.
Christopher Black, an attorney who represented Hansen at his arraignment in Seattle, did not respond to phone messages. Court records in Seattle and Salt Lake City did not list any other representative for Hansen.
Pending transfer to Salt Lake federal court for prosecution, Hansen is at FDC SeaTac, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons site capable of managing high-risk inmates.
No new court dates were scheduled as of Friday.