Convicted of Espionage

For those convicted, the term `traitor' is an honest description.

    Information provided by the U.S. Army, Office of the Chief of Public Affairs

    Over the last decade, 10 U.S. Army soldiers have been convicted of espionage. While revenge was a motive in at least one case, most soldiers convicted said they “did it for the money.” At least one soldier still considered himself to be a loyal, “flag waving” American.

    Espionage is a crime against the United States, pure and simple. Serious harm is inflicted when secrets are stolen and sold for profit. National security is compromised. Other Americans may be targeted from information obtained. Equipment is lost. For those convicted of espionage, the term “traitor” is an honest description.

    The list of soldiers convicted of espionage is 10 soldiers too long; the blood money didn't do them any good and the jail time took away their freedom.

    Sgt. Daniel W. Richardson was arrested Jan. 7, 1988, charged with attempting to spy for the Soviet Union. Richardson was demoted in August 1987 for repeated tardiness, and indicated his espionage motives were revenge and money. On Aug. 26, 1988, Richardson was sentenced to 10 years in military prison, fined $36,000, and given a bad conduct discharge.

    An electronic warfare signals specialist for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fulda, Germany, Spec. Michael A. Peri fled to East Germany with a lap top computer and military secrets on Feb. 20, 1989. He voluntarily returned March 4, 1989, to plead guilty to espionage. Peri said he made an impulsive mistake, that he felt overworked and unappreciated in his job. Peri had been described as “a good, clean-cut soldier” with a “perfect record.” During his tour of duty in Germany, he had been promoted and twice was nominated for a soldier of the month award. Peri was sentenced to 30 years in a military prison.

    The most extensive espionage investigation in Army counterintelligence history (nicknamed CANASTA PLAYER) ended with the conviction of retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Clyde L. Conrad. On June 6, 1990, a West German court convicted Conrad of high treason. He was fined two million deutsch marks and sentenced to life plus four years in prison. Conrad had taken over and operated an “espionage ring,” operating it as a business—solely to make money—by stealing and selling U.S. and NATO war plans to the Hungarian and Czech intelligence services, and through them to the Soviet Union.

    Other convictions were: retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Zoltan Szabo (who started the ring and recruited Conrad) in Austria, 10 months suspended on Sept. 29, 1989; couriers Imre and Sandor Kerscik in Sweden, 18 months each on Oct. 18, 1988; former Army Spec. Tommaso Mortati (another Szabo recruit) in Italy, 20 months suspended on Dec. 21, 1989; former Army Sgt. Roderick Ramsay (Conrad's primary assistant) in Tampa, Fla., 36 years on Aug. 28,1992; and Ramsay's assistants Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Rondeau in Tampa, Fla., 15 years on June 24, 1994, and Staff Sgt. Jeff Gregory in Tampa, Fla., 15 years on June 24, 1994.

    On Aug. 23, 1988, the same day Clyde Conrad was arrested, Army counterintelligence identified Warrant Officer James W. Hall III as another espionage agent. Hall was arrested on Dec. 21, 1988, in Savannah, Ga., after bragging to an undercover agent he had sold top secret intelligence to East Germany and the Soviet Union for six years. He stated he had been motivated only by money. He told the agent, “I wasn't terribly short of money. I just decided I didn't ever want to worry where my next dollar was coming from. I'm not anti-American. I wave the flag as much as anybody else.”

    As a result of the Army's investigation, the FBI arrested Huseyin Yildirim, a Turk who served as a conduit between Hall and East German intelligence officers. Hall received over $100,000 in payments. Hall's activities inflicted grave damage to U.S. signals intelligence. On March 9, 1989, Hall was sentenced to 40 years in prison, fined $50,000 and given a dishonorable discharge. Yildirim was convicted July 20, 1989, and sentenced to life without parole.

    On July 16, 1991, Spec. Albert T. Sombolay pled guilty to espionage and aiding the enemy. Born in Zaire, Sombolay became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1978 and entered the Army in 1985 as a cannon crewman. In support of the “Arab cause,” he passed information on U.S. troop readiness, provided some chemical warfare equipment (chemical suit, boots, gloves and contamination gear), and promised more information including video tapes of U.S. equipment and positions in Saudi Arabia. He admitted to providing Desert Shield deployment information, military identification cards, and chemical protection equipment. Tried by military judge in Baumholder, Germany, Sombolay was sentenced to confinement at hard labor for 34 years, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and dishonorable discharge.

    Eight soldiers will spend an average of 22 years behind bars; two soldiers will spend the rest of their lives incarcerated. Was the money (or the revenge) worth the price of years in jail? No, it wasn't. It never is.

Soldiers Convicted of Espionage

1986 - 1996

Sgt. Daniel W. Richardson Aug. 26, 1988

Spec. Michael A. Peri June 23, 1989

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Zoltan Szabo Sept 29, 1989

Former Spec. Tommaso Mortati Dec. 21, 1989

Warrant Officer James W. Hall III July 20, 1989

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Clyde E . Conrad June 6, 1990

Spec. Albert T. Sombolay July, 1991

(No day given)

Former Sgt. Roderick Ramsay Aug. 28, 1992

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Rondeau June 24, 1994

Staff Sgt. Jeff E. Gregory June 24, 1994

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   Last Updated: January 23, 1997