Robert Hanssen dies at 79; Chicago-born FBI agent who was convicted of spying for Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Chicago-born former CPD investigator who, as an FBI agent, took more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds in exchange for exchanging secrets with Russia and the former Soviet Union in one of the cases notorious espionage in the United States. he story died in prison on Monday.

Hanssen, 79, was found unconscious in his cell at a federal prison in Florence, Colorado, and later pronounced dead, prison officials said. He is believed to have died of natural causes, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the details of Hanssen’s death and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.


US Attorney Randy Bellows, right, addresses court during the sentencing of convicted spy Robert Hanssen, center, in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Hanssen pleaded guilty to 15 counts of espionage and other charges in 2001 and received a life sentence.

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.

Hanssen had released a large amount of information about American intelligence gathering, including extensive details about how American officials had taken advantage of Russian spy operations, dating back to at least 1985.

He was believed to have been partly responsible for the deaths of at least three Soviet officers working for US intelligence and were executed after being discovered.

He received more than $1.4 million in cash, bank funds, diamonds, and Rolex watches in exchange for providing highly classified national security information to the Soviet Union and then Russia.

He did not adopt an obviously lavish lifestyle, instead living in a modest suburban house in Virginia with his family of six children and driving a Ford Taurus and a minivan.

Hanssen would later say that he was motivated by money rather than ideology, but a letter written to his Soviet supervisors in 1985 explains that a large payout could have caused complications because he couldn’t spend it without ringing warning bells.

Using the alias “Ramón García,” he passed some 6,000 documents and 26 computer disks to his handlers, authorities said. They detailed espionage techniques, helped confirm the identity of Russian double agents and revealed other secrets. Officials also believed that he had tipped Moscow off about a secret tunnel the Americans built under the Soviet embassy in Washington to eavesdrop.

It went unnoticed for years, but subsequent investigations found missing red flags. After becoming the center of a search for a Russian mole, Hanssen was caught sticking a garbage bag full of secrets to the bottom of a pedestrian bridge in a park in a “stalemate” for Russian controllers.

The story was made into a movie titled “Breach” in 2007, starring Chris Cooper as Hanssen and Ryan Phillippe as a young bureau agent who helps bring him down.

Hanssen was the son of a Chicago police officer and grew up in the 6200 block of North Neva, the Sun-Times reported in 2001, after he was accused of spying for Russia.

He graduated from Taft High School in 1962, then earned a chemistry degree from Knox College, the Sun-Times reported at the time. Hanssen attended Northwestern University dental school for two years before dropping out to pursue an MBA from NU.

He went on to work for the Chicago Police Department as an investigator, then joined the FBI in 1976 and worked in Indiana, then New York City.

The FBI has been notified of Hanssen’s death, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

Collaboration: David Struett