Kevin Patrick Mallory, a BYU alumnus who is a former CIA officer was arrested this week, accused of giving classified documents to a Chinese intelligence officer posing as a member of a think tank. The man had been serving in an LDS branch presidency in Virginia.

PROVO — A BYU graduate who is a former CIA officer sold secret documents to Chinese intelligence officials, according to charges filed this week in federal court.

Kevin Patrick Mallory, 60, of Leesburg, Virginia, was arrested Thursday on counts of delivering defense information to aid a foreign government and making false statements. The maximum punishment for the first count is life in prison or the death penalty.

At the time of his arrest, Mallory, who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, was serving as first counselor in the branch presidency of the Chinese-language Twin Lakes Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Centreville, Virginia. A branch is a Mormon term for a small congregation.

"The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious, and these charges should send a message to anyone who would consider violating the public’s trust and compromising our national security by disclosing classified information," said Dana J. Boente, acting assistant attorney general for National Security, in a Department of Justice news release.

Mallory appeared in federal court briefly on Thursday and requested a public defender to represent him.

Mallory allegedly provided a top-secret document and two others labeled secret to Chinese intelligence officers in Shanghai in March and April, according to the release.

"Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid for it," Mallory wrote to his Chinese contact, according to the criminal complaint filed by an FBI agent.

Mallory allegedly added that he would "bring the remainder of the documents" in June.

He told the FBI he was paid $25,000 for writing white papers for a Chinese think tank, according to the complaint.

A message left on Mallory's cell phone was not immediately returned Friday evening.

Reached by phone Friday night, David S. Eccles, second counselor in the Twin Lakes Branch presidency, said he was unaware of Mallory's arrest.

"I'm deeply shocked and appalled by these allegations," Eccles said. He declined further comment.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins confirmed that Mallory attended the school. The criminal complaint said Mallory graduated in 1981 with a degree in political science.

The LDS Church had no immediate comment Friday.

The CIA also declined comment, according to the Washington Post.

The criminal complaint says Mallory told U.S. Customs officials after a flight home from Shanghai in April that the reason for his trip to China was a father-son vacation and business, and that he met with a fellow Mormon to consult on anti-bullying and family safety development.

Mallory said he was a consultant for GlobalEx, a company he founded in 2010. He declared on his customs form that he had less than $10,000 with him, but customs officials found $16,500 in his carry-on bags.

FBI agents followed up with Mallory in May, according to the DOJ news release. Mallory told them he'd been contacted on a social media site by a Chinese recruiter who put him in contact with a potential client. The client posed as a member of a Chinese think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The FBI believes the think tank is a cover for Chinese intelligence officers.

Mallory admitted that he met with the client in March and April and believed the client was working for the Chinese Intelligence Service, according to the complaint.

Mallory allowed FBI agents to search the device he used to communicate with the client. He believed he'd erased all evidence, but the device still contained a list of eight documents. Four remained stored on the device, and three contained classified information. One of those documents was classified top secret and the other two were classified secret, according to the complaint.

"Kevin Mallory was previously entrusted with top-secret clearance and therefore had access to classified information, which he allegedly shared and planned to continue sharing with representatives of a foreign government," said Andrew W. Vale, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, in the DOJ news release. "Furthermore, he allegedly misled investigators in a voluntary interview about sharing of this classified information. The FBI will continue to investigate those individuals who put our national security at risk through unauthorized disclosures of information."

After graduating from BYU, Mallory served in the military for five years, then worked as a special agent for the State Department Diplomatic Security Service. He went on to work for various government agencies and defense contractors and U.S. Army on active deployments in Iraq, China, Taiwan and Washington, D.C.

He maintained top-secret security clearance until he left government employment in 2012. The criminal complaint alleges that he asked multiple former CIA coworkers for help contacting a specific government department. He told one that he believed he was talking to Chinese intelligence and that a Chinese agent had provided him with a secure device, according to the criminal complaint.

Peter Mattis, a former government analyst and now a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation’s China Program, told Foreign Policy that the Chinese regularly use think tanks as cover for intelligence operations.

"Chinese think tanks can be used to invite someone over (to China) who is either a person of interest or a source," Mattis said. "That person comes over and gives a talk, and they’ll be met and have meetings with the local state security element or the People’s Liberation Army."