NOAA National Weather Service Employee Indicted for Allegedly Downloading Restricted Government Files
DAYTON, OH—Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, 59, of Wilmington, Ohio, was indicted in U.S. District Court for allegedly accessing restricted U.S. Government files. Chen is a hydrologist currently employed at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) facility located in Wilmington, Ohio.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Kevin R. Cornelius, Special Agent in Charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the NOAA Administrator and George Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Investigations and Threat Management Division announced the indictment October 20.
The indictment alleges that on various dates in May 2012, Chen illegally accessed restricted areas of a protected U.S. Government computer database and downloaded sensitive files from the National Inventory of Dams. This database is maintained and controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with the National Dam Safety Review Board.
The indictment further alleges that on June 11, 2013, Chen provided materially false statements to officials from the Department of Commerce Office of Security who were assigned to investigate her activities.
The indictment charges Chen with one count of theft of U.S. Government property, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; one count of illegally accessing a U.S. Government computer database, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and two counts of making materially false statements to federal agents, crimes each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Chen was arrested today by FBI agents at her place of work at the Wilmington, Ohio NOAA facility.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended FBI and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Security who are jointly investigating this case. Assistant United States Attorney Dwight Keller is representing the government in this case.
An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.