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Former federal employee charged with espionage

Prosecutors said Abraham Teklu Lemma provided Ethiopia with top-secret information while he was working for the U.S. State Department.
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Posted at 10:09 AM, Sep 22, 2023

The Department of Justice filed espionage charges against Abraham Teklu Lemma, a former federal contractor who prosecutors alleged provided Ethiopia with top secret U.S. documents while working for the State Department. 

According to an affidavit unsealed on Thursday,  Lemma is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Ethiopia. He had worked for various U.S. agencies since 2019, the affidavit said. 

He was most recently employed as a help desk technician within the Bureau of Intelligence and Research with the U.S. Department of State. Prosecutors said Lemma had access to non-State Department classified documents as he worked in a secure facility. 

Prosecutors allege that Lemma copied and pasted at least 85 intelligence reports, most of which involved Ethiopia. He allegedly provided Ethiopia's government with some of these documents. 

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The seal for the U.S. Department of Justice

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Prosecutors said Lemma did not have a need to access the intelligence reports. 

The DOJ also said that Lemma deposited large sums of money correlating with trips to Ethiopia, totaling $55,000. 

"With the intent to and reason to believe it would be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of (Ethiopia), Lemma obtained documents, photographs, notes, maps, and information related to the national defense, and willfully communicated, delivered, and transmitted that National Defense Information to a representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen of (Ethiopia), in violation of (the law)," the DOJ said in its filing. 

Lemma faces two charges related to espionage and one charge of having unauthorized possession of classified materials.