Lead man arrested on federal espionage charges

Lead police help FBI arrest man who allegedly tried to pass secrets to the Russian government
Lead Police Department help FBI arrest alleged spy.
Lead Police Department help FBI arrest alleged spy.(VNL)
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 3:02 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - John Murray Rowe Jr., a 63-year-old man from Lead, was arrested Wednesday night, accused of trying to pass classified national defense information to the Russian government.

Rowe, who is originally from Massachusetts, spent close to 40 years as a test engineer for several defense contractors. He held various national security clearances up to top secret., working on matters relating to the U.S. Air Force’s aerospace technology.

The FBI became interested in Rowe after he allegedly committed security violations; as well as (according to a Department of Justice Release) “revealing a fervent interest in Russian affairs.”

In an undercover operation, the FBI says Rowe met with a person posing as a Russian government agent. Over eight months, Rowe reportedly exchanged more than 300 emails with the fake Russian agent confirming his willingness to talk about his knowledge of classified information relating to U.S. national security and military interests.

According to the DOJ, in one of the emails, Rowe explained, “If I can’t get a job here then I’ll go work for the other team.” In another email, Rowe disclosed national defense information classified as SECRET that concerned specific operating details of the electronic countermeasure systems used by U.S. military fighter jets.

The specific charge against Rowe is “attempting to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government.” He will make his initial court appearance Friday. If convicted, he faces a maximum mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The FBI was aided by the Lead Police Department as well as the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

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