A West Virginia woman was sentenced to just over 11 years in federal prison Monday for a scheme in which she kidnapped her daughter, fled to Mexico, and attempted to sell classified NSA information to Russia.
Elizabeth Jo Shirley, 47, pleaded guilty to charges of unlawfully retaining documents containing national defense information and international parental kidnapping last year, in connection with the 2019 scheme.
“Shirley betrayed the trust of the American people when she took classified information from her work with the Intelligence Community,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement. “This sentence will hold Shirley accountable for her violations of the American people’s trust, and serves as a warning to others who would seek unlawful profit at America’s expense.”
Shirley’s journey began relatively inauspiciously. A former defense contractor with a security clearance, Shirley didn’t return her daughter, Josephine Craft, then 6, to her ex-husband’s home in West Virginia at the end of her visitation period.
“When I went to pick her up... [Shirley] had sent me a text message saying that her car had broke down,” Miranda Craft, Josephine’s custodial parent, told a local CBS affiliate in 2019.
After weeks of radio silence, Josephine and Shirley were found in a hotel in Mexico City. According to prosecutors, Shirley didn’t just have her daughter in tow—she also had classified NSA information, which she was attempting to sell to Russia “in order to further her criminal abduction of her daughter,” Demers said in the statement.
According to Shirley’s plea deal, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, she agreed that she fled the country with “the intent to make contact with representatives of the Government of Russia to request resettlement in a country that would not extradite her to the United States.”
“Shirley held a position that required the highest level of trust,” Bill Powell, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, said in a statement. “Shirley deserves her sentence and not a day less.”