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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A former U.S. Navy sailor has been indicted by a federal grand jury for attempted espionage after he allegedly tried to pass classified documents to what he believed were representatives of the Russian Federation, officials said Thursday.

Robert Patrick Hoffman II, 39, of Virginia Beach, Va., was arrested Thursday and made an initial appearance in federal court in Norfolk, according to an FBI statement.

Hoffman served 20 years in the Navy until his retirement on Nov. 1, 2011, the statement said. Due to his service, he held security clearances that granted him access to classified and national defense information.

On Oct. 21, Hoffman allegedly tried to deliver documents containing national security information to the Russians but instead passed it on to the FBI, which was conducting an undercover operation, the statement said.

Hoffman could face up to life in prison if convicted, the statement said. The indictment does not allege that the Russian Federation committed any offenses in this case.

“He is alleged to have carried out this activity with the intent to cause injury to the United States and to give an advantage to the Russian Federation,” the statement said.

The case was jointly investigated by the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the statement said.

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