FBI arrests Lead man for attempted espionage
LEAD, S.D. – A Lead man was arrested Thursday in South Dakota on federal espionage charges for attempting to sell classified information to Russia, according to a release from the FBI.
According to the criminal complaint, John Murray Rowe, Jr., 63, who is originally from Massachusetts, was employed for nearly 40 years as a test engineer for multiple security cleared defense contractors. In connection with his employment, the defendant held various national security clearances and worked on matters relating to the U.S. Air Force’s aerospace technology.
After allegedly committing a number of security violations and revealing a fervent interest in Russian affairs, including asking whether he could obtain a security clearance from the Russian government, Rowe was identified as a potential insider threat and terminated from employment. Based on this, the FBI began an undercover operation to determine the defendant’s willingness to communicate classified information to a foreign government.
In March 2020, Rowe met with an FBI employee operating in a covert capacity and posing as an agent of the Russian government. Over the course of the next eight months, Rowe exchanged over 300 emails with the purported Russian agent, confirming his willingness to work for the Russian government and discussing his knowledge of classified information relating to U.S. national security and military interests.
In one email, Rowe explained, “If I can’t get a job here then I’ll go work for the other team.” In another email, Rowe disclosed national defense information classified as SECRET that concerned specific operating details of the electronic countermeasure systems used by U.S. military fighter jets.
Rowe will make his initial appearance in federal court on these charges in South Dakota Friday. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI Philadelphia Field Office, with assistance provided by the Lead Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota, the U.S. Air Fore Office of Special Investigations, and the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office and Rapid City Resident Agency.