Ex-VP aide, FBI analyst admits spying
Former Marine pleads guilty to taking part in Philippine coup plot
From Julian Cummings
Michael Aquino, left, and Leandro Aragoncillo were arrested last September.
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NEWARK, New Jersey (CNN) -- A former vice presidential military aide and FBI analyst pleaded guilty Thursday to supplying documents to unnamed individuals in the Philippines on how to orchestrate a coup attempt against Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In a federal court hearing in Newark, New Jersey, Leandro Aragoncillo entered into a plea agreement that would keep the death penalty off the table for him.
Aragoncillo, a former U.S. Marine, acknowledged to prosecutors that he supplied top secret U.S. defense information -- which he wasn't authorized to obtain -- to officials in the Philippines. The officials were not named.
However, he implicated Michael Aquino, a former official with the Philippines National Police. The two were arrested together in September 2005.
Aquino was charged with taking classified documents obtained from Aragoncillo and passing them on to unnamed Philippine officials.
Aquino's lawyer, Marc Berman, has said that his client was unaware that the documents received were classified and that no markings on them indicated so. He has entered a plea of not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Aragoncillo, 47, pleaded guilty to all four counts brought against him. The first two counts, conspiracy to transmit defense information and transmission of defense information, carry a maximum penalty of death.
As a part of the plea agreement, both parties agreed that the crimes committed do not meet the criteria to seek the death penalty.
"We're fortunate that no physical harm was brought to anyone because of this, and that's part of the reason we did not seek the death penalty on counts one and two," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie outside a New Jersey courthouse.
The other two counts against Aragoncillo -- unlawful retention of defense information and unlawful use of a government computer -- carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Prosecutors said the guidelines set by U.S. District Judge William H. Walls would call for a sentence of 15-24 years in prison. Sentencing for Aragoncillo is scheduled for August 14.
"Mr. Aragoncillo faces significant time in federal prison, and rightfully so," Christie said.
Aragoncillo worked as a military aide to two vice presidents -- Al Gore and Dick Cheney.
Prosecutors said Aragoncillo, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in the Philippines, admitted removing classified information from the vice president's office between about October 2000 and February 2002.
Aragoncillo also acknowledged his espionage activity continued while he was an FBI analyst in New Jersey, where he worked at the time of his arrest, prosecutors said.
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