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Jan. 16, 2009

CIVILIAN CONTRACTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS TO FEDERAL AGENTS

(HOUSTON) – A civilian contractor who performed work on the United States Embassy in Beijing, China, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to make false statements about and concealing his frequent and lengthy contact with a female Chinese national as alleged in a superseding indictment, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew R. Bland and Department of State Diplomatic Security Director Gregory B. Starr announced today.

Gregory W. Blackard, 37, of Houston, was arraigned on charges alleged in a superseding indictment returned Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, and thereafter entered a plea of guilty to the first count of that indictment before United States District Judge David Hittner. Count One of the superseding indictment accused Blackard of conspiring with a female Chinese national to make false statements to federal agents about his frequent contacts with her over the course of a two-year period and taking steps to prevent discovery of the personal relationship while he was employed as a senior manager of a contractor performing work on the United States Embassy in Beijing. Blackard had obtained the high level security clearance needed to work on the embassy construction and received extensive training and materials on Standards of Conduct (fraternization policy) and counterintelligence programs.   

At this morning’s hearing, Blackard admitted he had a two-year relationship with a female Chinese national which began in February 2005 and continued through June 2007 and knowingly failed to disclose his frequent and intimate contact with her as required on frequently requested and submitted questionnaires, contact reports and travel reports. He further acknowledged he and the Chinese national, an unindicted co-conspirator, used various methods to prevent the discovery of their relationship including the use of different entrances to his apartment, different meeting places, non-use of cellular telephones or text messaging (because they create a record), avoiding places where westerners might congregate, and constantly were on the lookout for evidence the Department of State Personnel Security Services could possibly use against them. During the two-year period, Blackard received more than $200,000 in salary.  

“Just like sworn federal employees, those entrusted with contract employment on sensitive government matters are aware of their obligations to be completely forthright in all matters at all times,” Bland stated. “The FBI will vigorously investigate those who choose to thwart this requirement and put our national security at risk.”

“This case demonstrates the strong commitment of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and the FBI in working together on serious security breaches,” said Starr. “In close coordination with the Department of Justice, DSS and the FBI will continue to vigorously investigate these matters to ensure that those who violate the law are prosecuted.”  

The conspiracy conviction carries a penalty of not more than five years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a supervised release term of not less than three years. Judge Hittner has set sentencing for April 17, 2009, at 10:15 a.m. before Judge Gray Miller.

Blackard was originally arrested Dec. 22, 2008, and released on bond. He has been permitted to remain free on bond pending his sentencing hearing. 

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by agents of the Department of State DSS along with agents with the Houston Office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Wright.

 

 

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