Nathaniel James Nicholson, 25, of Eugene, Oregon, appeared before U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown and pled guilty to the crimes of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The maximum penalties for those crimes are five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, and 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000, respectively. Judge Brown scheduled sentencing on January 25, 2010.
Nicholson’s father, Harold J. Nicholson, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, is serving a 283-month sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Sheridan, Oregon, for a 1997 conviction of conspiracy to commit espionage. The government alleges that defendant Harold J. Nicholson, working through his son Nathaniel J. Nicholson, received cash proceeds for his past espionage activities from agents of the Russian Federation between 2006 and 2008.
Nathaniel J. Nicholson, who has been on pre-trial release, admitted in his plea that he met with his father, Harold J. Nicholson at the prison in Sheridan on several occasions. At these meetings, he received information and directions from his father regarding his contact with agents of the Russian Federation. Defendant admitted he traveled to several locations outside the United States, met with agents of the Russian Federation, and received money in return. Nicholson admitted to receiving instructions from an agent of the Russian Federation to obtain information from his father Harold J. Nicholson. After collecting money from the Russian Federation, he disbursed the money to family members as directed by Harold J. Nicholson.
In entering his plea of guilty, defendant admitted the funds he received from the Russian Federation were proceeds of his father’s past espionage activities. Defendant further admitted traveling to the following international locations and returning to Portland, Oregon with funds received from the Russian Federation:
- Defendant returned to Portland, Oregon on December 17, 2006 from Mexico City, Mexico with approximately $10,000 he received from an agent of the Russian Federation.
- Defendant returned to Portland, Oregon on July 12, 2007 from Mexico City, Mexico with approximately $9,080 received from an agent of the Russian Federation.
- Defendant returned to Portland, Oregon on December 13, 2007 from Lima, Peru with approximately $7,013 received from an agent of the Russian Federation.
- Defendant returned to Portland, Oregon on December 14, 2008 from Cyprus carrying approximately $9,500 received from an agent of the Russian Federation.
As part of the plea, the defendant agreed to forfeit the $9,500 seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on December 15, 2008 upon his return from Cyprus. Additionally, as part of the plea, he has agreed to testify on behalf of the government about his conduct involving his father and the Russian Federation between 2006 and 2008.
"In his guilty plea today, Nathaniel Nicholson acknowledged his role in the ongoing conspiracy with his father to collect money from the Russian Federation for his father’s past espionage activity," stated Acting U.S. Attorney Robinson. "His plea and his agreement to provide truthful testimony show his willingness to accept responsibility for his actions."
"Nathaniel Nicholson traveled the globe to collect money from and pass information to Russian agents on behalf of his imprisoned father, one of the highest-ranking CIA officials ever convicted of espionage. By doing so, Nathanial joined his father's long-running criminal scheme to provide information to Russia for financial gain. I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors whose tireless efforts helped bring about this guilty plea," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
"Despite imprisonment, convicted spy Harold Nicholson was able to profit from his previous acts of espionage by continuing to collect money from the Russian Federation through his son, Nathaniel James Nicholson," said Executive Assistant Director Arthur M. Cummings, II, of the FBI National Security Division. "Today’s plea comes only after countless hours of dedicated effort by FBI investigators and analysts in Portland working with our partners to uncover the Nicholsons’ activities and once again disrupt their acts to profit from providing information to the Russian Federation."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) investigated this case. Assistant U. S. Attorneys Pamala Holsinger and Ethan Knight are prosecuting this case. Trial Attorney Patrick Murphy of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division is also assisting.