Larry Wu-Tai Chin
Larry Wu-tai Chin (1922–February 22, 1986) was a former Chinese language
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...

 working for the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

's Foreign Broadcast Information Service
Foreign Broadcast Information Service
Foreign Broadcast Information Service was an open source intelligence component of the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Science and Technology. It monitored, translated, and disseminated within the U.S. government openly available news and information from media sources outside the...

. He sold classified documents to the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 from 1952 to 1985.


Chin served as a Chinese translator in the US Army during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, at which time he is believed to have first come into contact with Chinese intelligence. He may have supplied the Chinese with information about prisoners of war captured by American, South Korean, and allied forces. He misrepresented the intelligence that he was translating from captured Chinese soldiers resulting in the loss of US forces and missed tactical opportunities. Many of these Chinese soldiers intended to defect to South Korea. He also provided the Chinese with the names of captured Chinese soldiers who were revealing information or intended to defect. The Chinese then specifically requested these soldiers by name to be released back to China before the armistice negotiations could take place. This delayed the negotiations process for over a year, resulting in countless lost lives.

Following his military enlistment, Chin applied to and was accepted by the CIA where he continued his espionage for China. According to No Kum-Sok
No Kum-Sok
No Kum-Sok is a former lieutenant of the North Korean Air Force during the Korean War who defected to South Korea...

, the North Korean pilot who defected with a MiG-15, as part of General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Mark Clark's Operation Moolah
Operation Moolah
Operation Moolah was a United States Air Force effort during the Korean War to obtain through defection a fully capable Soviet MiG-15 jet fighter. The MiG-15 was introduced by Communist forces on November 1, 1950 over the skies of Korea...

, Larry Chin was one of his CIA handlers after his defection. During his long term as a spy, Chin is now regarded as having been lavishly compensated for his services. His skill at laundering
Money laundering
Money laundering is the process of disguising illegal sources of money so that it looks like it came from legal sources. The methods by which money may be laundered are varied and can range in sophistication. Many regulatory and governmental authorities quote estimates each year for the amount...

 those espionage profits is reputed to be without peer. Chin purchased apartments and tenements in the low-income section of Baltimore, Maryland and made huge gains as a slumlord
A slumlord is a derogatory term for landlords, generally absentee landlords, who attempt to maximize profit by minimizing spending on property maintenance, often in deteriorating neighborhoods. They may need to charge lower than market rent to tenants...

. Chin also cultivated the persona of a womanizer with a gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

 addiction. It was later believed that while Chin did indeed show signs of compulsive gambling
Compulsive gambling
Problem gambling is an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler's behavior. Severe problem gambling may be diagnosed as clinical...

, that he did not so much apply his espionage profits towards financing gambling junkets; rather he used the cultivated persona of a high roller
High roller
A high roller, also referred to as a whale in the casino industry, is a gambler who wagers large amounts of money. High rollers often receive lavish "perks" from casinos to lure them onto the gambling floors, such as free private jet transfers, limousine use and use of the casinos' best suites...

 to help cover up his unexplained affluence from espionage as gambling winnings. Some CIA co-workers noted suspicious behavior concerns Chin's lifestyle did not match up with what a CIA salary could afford, but this was dismissed largely by friends and co-workers who gambled with Chin and would occasionally see him indeed win at gambling. Not once during Chin's tenure in the Army or CIA was he suspected of espionage or placed under investigation. In fact, in 1980 Chin was awarded a medal from the CIA for his long and distinguished service. Only five years later did any allegation of espionage arise. In 1985 Larry Chin had charges prepared against him for espionage on behalf of China.

In 1986 Chin was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 and tax evasion
Tax evasion
Tax evasion is the general term for efforts by individuals, corporations, trusts and other entities to evade taxes by illegal means. Tax evasion usually entails taxpayers deliberately misrepresenting or concealing the true state of their affairs to the tax authorities to reduce their tax liability,...

. Chin admitted to the espionage, but he also claimed his deeds were intended to pursue reconciliation between China and the United States. Chin stated he would fully cooperate with debriefings in an effort to avoid further charges, but on the day of his sentencing, when prison guards arrived at Chin's cell to transport him to court, they found him lifeless with a garbage bag over his head. An autopsy
An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy , autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present...

 concluded that Chin had committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 in his cell.

Given Chin's money laundering skills, it is unknown how much money the Chinese paid him for his spying. Chin had rolled over most of his espionage income into real estate, as was evidenced by his purchases of low-income housing. However, it is believed that Chin's proceeds exceeded $1 million, making him one of only five known American spies to have made such a large amount by espionage. Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Ames
Aldrich Hazen Ames is a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who, in 1994, was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia...

, Clyde Conrad, Robert Hanssen
Robert Hanssen
Robert Philip Hanssen is a former American FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001...

 and John Walker
John Anthony Walker
John Anthony Walker, Jr. is a former United States Navy Chief Warrant Officer and communications specialist convicted of spying for the Soviet Union from 1968 to 1985, at the height of the Cold War...

 are the other four.



See also

  • Chinese Intelligence Operations in the United States
    Chinese intelligence operations in the United States
    The People's Republic of China has and is currently using a widespread effort to acquire U.S. military technology and classified information. To fulfill its long-term military development goals, the PRC uses a variety of methods to obtain U.S. technology; including espionage, the exploitation of...

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