A former CIA officer allegedly duped an aspiring covert operative into believing she was part of a quasi-official recruitment program for budding spies, then coerced her into repeatedly having sex with him so she could learn how to use her body “as a weapon.”
The woman claims she was told it would replicate the purported “off limits” work every CIA officer was inevitably called on to do, and that the techniques she picked up would become a valuable part of her “technical skillset.”
But the “fabricated and extended ‘training exercise’” did nothing to help the young cybersecurity specialist realize her dream of joining the agency, and instead groomed her for ongoing sexual abuse—ultimately landing her in a psychiatric facility, according to a bombshell lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast.
The 58-page complaint lays out a raft of stunning accusations against Shaun Wiggins, the co-founder and CEO of Soteryx, an Upstate New York data analytics consulting firm (and provider of active shooter training), whose corporate bio says he “served as a Clandestine Service Officer for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, identifying and engaging key foreign national stakeholders critical to U.S. interests.” Wiggins also worked for the Department of Defense Inspector General, as an external affairs officer. The company says its leadership includes several other ex-feds, such as a former FBI Special Agent in Charge, a former Department of Justice staff attorney, and a former Navy SEAL who also worked for the CIA. (The CIA did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for verification of Wiggins’ past employment, though he is regularly cited in local media as having worked for the agency.)
Wiggins, who has twice run for local office both as a Democrat and as a Conservative, allegedly told the woman, who is identified in the complaint only as “Jane Doe,” that when she wasn’t using sex to seduce information out of enemy targets, she could use it to develop stronger connections between herself and other operatives, the complaint says. Specifically, according to the filing, Wiggins said that “the bond between case officers on missions together was such that it wasn’t unusual to form sexual relationships with colleagues.”
Doe says she thought she had found the perfect job opportunity at Soteryx, which appeared to offer an ideal onramp to her dream career. Wiggins gained Doe’s trust, then turned it against her, assaulting her again and again over the course of what she believed was an 18-month “extended job interview,” according to the complaint. It says the arrangement also put Doe in dire financial straits, since Wiggins regularly withheld her pay until she completed more “training exercises.” The cloak-and-dagger aura permeated just about every aspect of the bogus setup, the complaint states: when Doe was struggling to buy food, Wiggins left $100 for her in a “secure spot” outside the Soteryx offices.
“As became increasingly clear, though… Wiggins was not conducting an actual CIA recruitment,” it says. “Rather… Wiggins was operating as a ‘groomer,’ using his position of actual and apparent authority and power to cause [Doe] to accede to his repeated sexual assaults.”
Doe brought the complaint against Wiggins and Soteryx under New York State’s Adult Survivors Act, which provides sexual assault victims a one-year “lookback window”—ending in late November—during which cases that otherwise would have expired under the statute of limitations can be reopened. As of May, roughly 130 lawsuits have been filed via the act, including ones naming famous defendants such as boxer Mike Tyson, director James Toback, and former President Donald Trump.
“I am grateful for the Adult Survivors Act, which has allowed so many survivors of sexual assault and abuse to hold their abusers accountable,” Doe’s lawyer, Megan Goddard, told The Daily Beast. “Abusers should always be held responsible for the harm they inflict, but the window for survivors to file lawsuits under the Adult Survivors Act ends in November of 2023.”
Wiggins and Soteryx did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
A ‘Gateway’ to the CIA
The allegations against Wiggins can be traced back to August 2017, when Doe was hired at Soteryx. She reported exclusively to Wiggins, who led her to believe her work at Soteryx, along with his connections, would prepare her for a job at the CIA, according to the complaint.
“Because of the nature of the work she was interested in, she understood that the position would require her to trust… Wiggins and that she may be exposed to some unique situations, outside of the standard 9-5 office job,” it states.
Doe graduated from college in 2009 and, as she entered her mid-20s, decided she wanted to join the CIA. To bolster her chances, she got a certificate in international cyber conflict and followed the advice of a professor who said some practical work experience would look good on her resume.
That spring, Doe spotted a blurb in the local paper about an upcoming ribbon-cutting ceremony at Soteryx, a new cybersecurity firm in Saratoga Springs. Intrigued by Wiggins’ CIA background, which she read about on the Soteryx website, she attended the ceremony and introduced herself to Wiggins. Before Doe even had a chance to contact him, Wiggins found her on LinkedIn and messaged her to arrange a meeting, according to the complaint.
The two met three times at a local restaurant, but no job offer was forthcoming, the complaint says. After two months, Doe assumed she hadn’t passed Wiggins’ informal interview process. But as late summer rolled around, Doe ran into Wiggins by chance at a Saratoga Springs coffee shop. She reiterated how interested she was in a CIA career, and this time, Wiggins expressed interest in hiring her, according to the complaint. He assured Doe that working for him would “be a gateway into her working for the CIA through his experience and contacts,” the complaint states.
From the start, Wiggins began to “control” Doe and “separate her from others, all under the guise of training,” according to the complaint. For starters, he insisted Doe only communicate with him privately via WhatsApp.
“[Doe] understood that she needed to learn about communications which could not be traced as part of her training, so was not concerned about the unusual communication style,” the complaint states. “Additionally, while… Wiggins permitted [Doe] to take occasional babysitting jobs to earn the money necessary to meet her expenses, he prohibited her from any work that might impinge on these ‘training exercises.’”
Wiggins told Doe he planned to “shape [her] into the ideal recruit,” and demanded she be “on call” 24 hours a day, according to the complaint.
“You, my dear, are an agent in waiting!” he told her on one occasion, the complaint continues.
Toward the end of September, Doe says Wiggins told her about the “off limits” training he planned to conduct. She responded enthusiastically, trusting Wiggins that it would simulate actual CIA techniques.
The tone of the messages soon started to shift, with Wiggins complimenting Doe’s hair and asking if she had ever been a model, according to the complaint. Still, there was enough talk about tradecraft to keep Doe interested. In October 2017, Wiggins told Doe that working with her had put him “back in agency mode,” and offered her a tour of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the complaint states, noting that Wiggins told Doe that he had previously “worked with the guy who managed the technology” that brought down disgraced FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was caught spying for the Russians.
“You crossed the point of no return,” Wiggins allegedly messaged Doe, which the complaint says Doe took to mean she really was being trained to join the CIA.
Later that month, according to the complaint, Wiggins informed Doe that she was ready to go to the “next level.” This meant becoming his “covert traveling companion,” Wiggins allegedly said, dangling trips to London, Paris, and Switzerland.
“I am your handler now,” Doe says he wrote to her on WhatsApp.
He also taught Doe how to leave unobtrusive chalk markings in public places to leave signals for other spies, according to the complaint. One denoted a “meeting,” while another denoted “an emergency meeting,” Doe claims Wiggins said. A third mark signified an “immediate extraction,” according to Doe.
“Is it a request for extraction or to tell someone else they are going to be immediately extracted?” Doe messaged Wiggins.
“Yes,” Wiggins replied.
‘Phase 2’ of Training
In December 2017, Doe says Wiggins told her that she was now “ready for Phase 2” of her CIA training.
“I saw an intense side of you,” the complaint says he wrote to her on WhatsApp. “I like that.”
Wiggins said he’d be stepping up the training to even higher levels but she still needed “[s]ome education,” it says. Wiggins planned to “conduct some testing… to see how you react,” according to a transcription of their messages included in the complaint.
That same day, the complaint says Wiggins messaged Doe again: “I’ve been amazed how potent very well trained women can use their bodies as a weapon… Very effectively.”
“I bet,” Doe responded.
“Decimated our marines in Russia,” Wiggins said. “... Had to develop special training to counter act [sic]... Cost MILLIONS. So I don’t say it lightly.”
Wiggins spoke of his own CIA recruitment, which he said involved a female CIA officer who purportedly used “sexual tactics” to test Wiggins’ “loyalty and unwavering dedication to the CIA,” the complaint states.
“I’m working on developing you,” Wiggins allegedly wrote to Doe. “And I think you are going to be a superior officer… I need to get more self discovery out you [sic]. As a colleague.”
“That is the best compliment I have received to date,” Doe wrote back. “And will be hard to surpass.”
Doe says Wiggins told her that she was “in my hands now,” and to get ready for a “wild, wonderful and fantastic ride.”
Soon, according to Doe’s lawsuit, Wiggins would assault her for the first time.
On Jan. 31, 2018, Doe accompanied Wiggins on what he described to her as a “big trip” to New York City, according to the complaint. He gave Doe his credit card to check them both into the hotel; she was surprised to learn there was only one room booked. So Doe, assuming there had been a mistake, secured a second room. Upon hearing this, Wiggins “became visibly irritated, assailing [Doe] for having ‘ruined everything,’” the complaint states. Wiggins then went to his room to “meet with a ‘contact’” he claimed to be involved with Doe’s supposed CIA recruitment.
When Doe later met up with Wiggins at the hotel bar, he told her that his CIA connections “still had doubts about [Doe’s] commitment to the recruitment process,” according to the complaint. He pointed out a man nearby and indicated he was undercover CIA, then told Doe to kiss him on the cheek “as a signal to the man” that she was committed to being recruited, the complaint states. Doe then went up to Wiggins’ room for a conference call with Soteryx’s COO, Wiggins’ brother, according to the complaint. Doe says she briefly returned to her own room, only to be summoned back by Wiggins, who answered the door in nothing but boxers and a T-shirt.
Wiggins then forced himself on a shocked Doe, the complaint alleges.
“[Doe] did not know how to respond and believed that she was being tested, so even though she did not want to have sex with him, she froze,” it goes on. “After… Wiggins was done sexually assaulting her, he told [Doe] to put her clothes back on, telling [her], ‘Very good. You can get dressed now.’”
Struggling to Make Ends Meet
Unnerved, Doe says she told Wiggins she had concerns about this “training process,” and pressed him for answers.
In response, Wiggins allegedly told Doe, “Your world will shift. It will be an awakening. This will be the beginning of your clandestine life. All this is part of being under me. You must trust me completely.”
In February 2018, more than six months after she was hired, Doe still hadn’t been paid, according to the complaint. Her rent was coming due and she didn’t have enough money to cover it, she told Wiggins, who responded that he’d come by her place with her money. Instead, he raped her again, alleges the complaint, which says Doe “felt she had no other option and that she was giving up her dreams if she did not allow him to ‘test’ her in this manner.”
By March, Doe still hadn’t been paid. And the assaults kept coming, according to the complaint. Three weeks later, Doe says she finally got her first check, for $1,500. In April, after Doe asked for proof of employment to qualify for a car loan, Wiggins gave Doe a letter confirming her employment at Soteryx, at an annual salary of $50,000.
“However, up until this point, and through the end of her employment, [Wiggins and Soteryx] had not paid [Doe] anywhere near $50,000.00, instead only paying her small increments to meet her immediate bills that regularly came on the condition of sexual assault,” the complaint states.
In August, Doe says she was assaulted by Wiggins an eighth time. And, the complaint says she wrote in a message to him, she was still barely making ends meet, being forced to choose between “food and toothpaste, food and tampons, food and soap, etc.”
“In response… Wiggins left $100 for Plaintiff in a ‘secure spot’ outside his office building,” the complaint states. “A few days later… Wiggins texted Plaintiff, ‘I’ll get you on a regular payroll soon’—which never occurred.”
In late October 2018, Doe rejected Wiggins’ final sexual advances and quit Soteryx.
She got a job as a waitress, abandoning her goal of joining the CIA, according to the complaint. Over the next few years, Doe put out feelers to “numerous” law enforcement agencies to try and figure out what type of legal recourse she had, if any. All the while, Doe says Wiggins regularly stopped by the restaurant to try and convince Doe to come back to Soteryx.
“It wasn’t until 2021, when an empathetic coworker with whom she became close and who was a legal aid attorney visiting her restaurant listened to her extraordinary story,” the complaint states. It says that after Doe was done, the attorney told her, “[T]hat’s rape.” Only then did Doe fully grasp “how fully she had been victimized and traumatized by… Wiggins,” according to the complaint.
“Eventually, [Doe] was able to tell her family about her experience. [Doe] completed a four-week intensive outpatient program at Four Winds Saratoga, a psychiatric hospital, and she continues her recovery,” it says, adding that she has “sustained and will continue to sustain serious psychological injuries, emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, and humiliation.”
Doe is seeking undetermined damages for sexual assault, battery, and infliction of emotional distress, as well as gender discrimination and sexual harassment. She has asked the court for anonymity, as she says she has “already experienced embarrassment among her family, friends, and co-workers, damage to her good reputation, disruption of her personal life, and the loss of enjoyment of the ordinary pleasures of everyday life.”
Wiggins and Soteryx have not yet filed a response in court to Doe’s allegations.