ALBANY, N.Y. – An electrical engineer for a defence contractor was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 180 hours of community service for falsely accusing his boss of spying for another country.
Ryan Letcher, a 39-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from Endicott, also was sentenced to four years’ probation and ordered to avoid contact with the ex-boss and to stay off the company’s premises.
Letcher was convicted in August of making a knowingly false statement to federal authorities. Defence attorney H Dana VanHee said Wednesday his client disagreed with the jury’s verdict and plans to appeal. Sentencing was last Thursday.
Letcher wrote an anonymous letter to the Defence Security Service in March 2012 accusing his boss at BAE Systems of being “foreign intelligence,” which means spying, federal prosecutors said. The company’s Endicott office works on electronics systems.
His supervisor has a security clearance. The FBI investigated his travel, home, work history, financial history and known associations before concluding he isn’t a spy.
Authorities said Letcher admitted to FBI agents that he sent the letter because of conflict with the supervisor over taking credit for his work, and that he believed his boss was a fraud and stupid. BAE Systems fired Letcher last year around the time of his arrest.
“In another place of employment or in another time, perhaps that letter would have been immediately disregarded. It wasn’t,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Thomson wrote in a memo proposing Letcher be sentenced to 15 to 21 months in prison. “When the accusation centres around an engineer with a secret clearance working for a Department of Defence contractor, a letter like the defendant’s becomes a matter of national security.”
False accusations of treason can destroy the reputations of individuals and businesses, Thomson wrote.
Letcher soon got another job, where he’s gotten good reviews, like he did in all his work before BAE Systems, VanHee said. Letcher acknowledged at trial that he wrote the letter, but he testified he had believed it was possible his boss was a foreign intelligence officer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Duncan said Wednesday that federal authorities don’t want this prosecution to keep people from reporting in good faith behaviours they consider suspicious.
Calls to BAE Systems were not immediately returned Wednesday.