Former FBI Agent and Russian spy Robert Hanssen found dead

Robert Hanssen found dead in supermax prison aged 79: FBI agent, sexual deviant, and Opus Dei devotee – who tried to convert a stripper to Catholicism – sold US nuclear secrets to the Russians for 20 years

  • Robert Hanssen, 79, was found dead in his supermax federal prison cell at the ADX in Florence, Colorado
  • A cause of death has not yet been released, but officials say there is no threat to the public
  • Hanssen pleaded guilty to selling highly classified materials to the Soviet Union and later to Russia and was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences

A former FBI agent convicted of espionage for Russia and serving a life sentence in a Colorado Supermax prison has died at the age of 79.

The bureau confirmed Monday that Robert Hanssen was found unresponsive in his supermax federal prison cell at the ADX in Florence, Colorado around 6.55am.

Responding prison staff members initiated life-saving measures, the bureau said in a statement, but Hanssen was ultimately pronounced dead by outside medical personnel. 

A cause of death has not yet been released, but officials say there is no threat to the public.

Hannsen became notorious in the United States when he was arrested in 2001 and pleaded guilty to selling highly classified materials to the Soviet Union and later Russia for decades.

He was only 20 years into his 15 consecutive life sentences for espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage and attempted espionage at the time of his death.

Robert Hanssen was serving 15 consecutive life sentences in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to espionage charges

FBI agents are pictured arresting Hanssen near his Virginia home in February 2001

Hanssen was confronted by agents when making a dead drop at a suburban Virginia park (seen here)

Hanssen began his operation just three years after he was hired by the FBI, when he personally approached the Soviets.

He began spying for the KGB in 1979 and continued to do so for its successor, the SVR, until he was ultimately confronted by his wife. 

But in 1985, Hanssen continued his operation, selling thousands of classified documents involving human sources, counterintelligence techniques and investigations in exchange for more than $1.4million in cash, diamonds and foreign bank deposits.

He never met with a Russian handler in person, but would instead use the alias ‘Ramon Garcia’ to pass on encrypted communications and conduct dead drops.

Some of the information that he was able to pass on included details on the US’s nuclear war preparations and a secret eavesdropping tunnel underneath the Soviet embassy in Washington, DC. 

His arrest was the culmination of a four-month inquiry, which authorities said was complicated by the fact that a number of Hanssen’s colleagues were investigating him, and he had a habit of checking FBI records in an ongoing attempt to see if he was being watched.

‘He didn’t make any slip-ups,’ Vincent Cannistrano, the former CIA director of counterintelligence told ABC News at the time.

But while they were investigating him, the FBI decided to transfer Hannsen from the State Department post he held since 1995 and move him back to the FBI headquarters, where he was not authorized to have contact with Russian agents. 

Hanssen’s identity was ultimately revealed when a Russian intelligence officer handed the FBI a file containing a trash bag with his fingerprints and a tape recording of his voice.

Agents then tailed the turncoat, and he was arrested while making a dead drop at a Virginia park. 

Hanssen, pictured here with his wife Bonnie and their six children, stopped spying for a few years when he was confronted by his wife

He began his espionage operation just three years after being hired by the FBI

Police tape surrounded the Vienna, Virginia home of Robert Hanssen in February 2001

After his arrest, details of Hanssen’s sordid life as a sexual deviant became known as he allowed a friend to watch him and his wife have sex without her knowledge. Hanssen then began to secretly record the encounters and detailed his sex life in online chat rooms.

Hanssen also spent time with a stripper named Priscilla Sue Galey, giving her money, jewels and even a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E sedan.

The two would meet alone in private, according to a Washington Post interview with Galey, who said he would never allow her to take a picture of him. In fact, when he found out there was one shot of him from Hong Kong, Galey said he took it from her and quickly destroyed it.

‘I got the courage to ask him what was going on a few times, and he’d always laugh and say, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,”‘ she said at the time.

Hanssen ended contact with her before his arrest and claimed he was trying to convert her to Catholicism.

The former spy was also active in the Opus Dei sect of the Catholic Church. 

He later claimed he admitted to his espionage in confession with Catholic priests, as he denounced the Russians as ‘godless’ despite his years working with them. 

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