A Marine veteran arrested Friday in Moscow on suspicion of espionage does not boast the resume of a covert intelligence agent ― at least in not in his Marine Corps background.
Paul Whelan served in the Marine reserves for nearly 14 years as an administrative clerk and received a bad conduct discharge for several charges related to larceny following a conviction at a special court-martial on Jan. 14, 2008, according to the Marine Corps.
Whelan attained the rank of staff sergeant in 2004, and was separated from the Corps on Dec. 2, 2008, at the rank of private. He had joined May 10, 1994, and had deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He served as an 0151, administrative clerk, 0149, administrative chief, and his last duty station was Marine Air Control Group 38 Headquarters, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing aboard Miramar, California, according to his service record book.
Since 2017, Whelan has been working as the director of global security for BorgWarner, a Michigan-based auto parts supplier. He was arrested Friday, according to The Associated Press.
The former Marine was in Moscow attending a wedding when he was arrested on Friday. Russian Federal Security Service stated Whelan was caught carrying out an “espionage operation.”
His brother, David Whelan, posted a message on Twitter from the family saying that his lack of communication on Dec. 28 “was very much out of character for him.”
Just before his arrest, Whelan had taken a group of wedding guests on a tour of Kremlin museums and then failed to show up for the wedding, his brother said in an interview.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” the family statement reads.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday while on a visit to Brazil that the U.S. is “hopeful within the next hours we’ll get consular access to see him and get a chance to learn more.”
Pompeo was in Brazil for the inauguration of new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
The Russian government says it’s now allowed Whelan to have access to U.S. consular representatives. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Minister is quoted by state news agency Tass and private agency Interfax as saying access was granted Wednesday.
The Russian spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.