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Berkeley County woman sentenced for planning to provide Russia with security information

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Berkeley County woman on Monday was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after taking a national defense document with plans to contact Russian officials.

Elizabeth Jo Shirley, of Hedgesville, previously admitted to authorities she took a National Security Agency document containing top-secret intelligence information. She also pleaded guilty last July to international parental kidnapping for taking her child with her to Mexico, where she planned to provide Russia with the information.

Shirley served on active duty with the U.S. Air Force and received security clearance in August 1994. She held various positions with the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force and five different cleared defense contractors from May 2001 to August 2012.

During this period, she had top-level security clearance at various times.

According to U.S. Attorney William Powell’s office, Shirley took her six-year-old daughter to Mexico in July 2019 with the security document. Shirley wanted to contact Russian officials about resettlement in a country that would not extradite her to the United States. U.S. Marshals and Mexican law enforcement found Shirley and her daughter at a hotel in Mexico City.

During a search on elective devices, the FBI found an Office of Naval Intelligence PowerPoint presentation containing classified information as well as messages Shirley drafted to the Russian government.

Shirley received a 97-month prison sentence for unlawfully retaining a document containing national defense information and a 36-month sentence for committing international parental kidnapping.

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