FLORENCE, Colo. — Robert Hanssen, an ex-FBI agent who received more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds to hand over secrets to Russia in one of the most notorious spying cases in American history, was found dead in prison on Monday.
Robert Hanssen, 79, was being held at a federal prison in Florence, Colorado. He was discovered unresponsive in his cell and later pronounced dead, prison officials said. He had been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole since 2002, after pleading guilty to 15 counts of espionage and other charges, KTLA reported.
A person close to the investigation yet not authorized to publicly release details told The Associated Press that Hanssen is believed to have died of natural causes.
During his time working as a spy, Hanssen divulged a considerable amount of information regarding American intelligence-gathering, including substantial details that specified how U.S. officials tapped into Russian spy operations, since at least 1985, according to the news outlet.
Hanssen operated under the alias “Ramon Garcia.” In doing so, he passed along about 6,000 documents and 26 computer disks to his handlers, authorities said.
His actions were believed to have contributed to the deaths of at least three Soviet officers who were working for U.S. intelligence sources and subsequently executed once they were exposed.
Hanssen received more than $1.4 million in cash, bank funds, diamonds and Rolex watches in exchange for classified information related to national security. He would later say he was motivated by money rather than ideology.
The FBI agent’s compromising actions went undetected for years. After he became the focus of an investigation, the Russian mole was caught taping a garbage bag full of secrets to the underside of a footbridge in a park in a “dead drop” for Russian handlers.
After approximately 20 years of spying for Russia, the situation was described by the Department of Justice as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history,” reported The Sun.
Follow-up investigations revealed several red flags that were missed, which allowed Hanssen to continue operating. His story was made into a 2007 movie titled “Breach.” The film starred Chris Cooper as Hanssen and Ryan Phillippe as a young FBI operative who helped catch him.