Larry Wu-tai Chin

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Larry Wu-tai Chin
Chin Wu-tai

(1922-08-17)August 17, 1922[1]
DiedFebruary 21, 1986(1986-02-21) (aged 63)[1]
Cause of deathSuicide
Burial placeAlta Mesa Memorial Park, Palo Alto, California, US
Nationality United States
Alma materYenching University
Spouse(s)Cathy Chin[2]
Children3 [3]
Espionage activity
Allegiance People's Republic of China

Larry Wu-tai Chin (simplified Chinese: 金无怠; traditional Chinese: 金無怠; pinyin: Jīn Wúdài; August 17, 1922 – February 21, 1986) was a Chinese language translator working for the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service. He sold classified documents to the People's Republic of China from 1952 to 1985.

Early life[edit]

Born as Chin Wu-tai in Peking, Republic of China in 1922,[4] he attended Yenching University.[3]


US Army[edit]

Chin served as a Chinese translator in the US Army during the Korean War, 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.

American CIA[edit]

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, the North Korean pilot who defected with a MiG-15, Larry Chin was one of his CIA handlers after his defection.[5] During his long term as a spy, Chin is now regarded as having been lavishly compensated for his services. His skill at laundering 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. Chin also cultivated the persona of a womanizer with a gambling addiction. It was later believed that while Chin did indeed show signs of compulsive gambling, that he did not so much apply his espionage profits towards financing gambling junkets; rather he used the cultivated persona of a high roller to help cover up his unexplained affluence from espionage as gambling winnings. Some CIA coworkers noted suspicious behavior and expressed concerns that Chin's lifestyle did not match up with what a CIA salary could afford, but this was dismissed largely by friends and coworkers 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. On November 23, 1985, he was arrested.[2] He was held at the Prince William County, Virginia jail, as the United States Marshal's Service typically places espionage suspects in Washington, DC-area county jails.[3]

In 1985, Larry Chin had charges prepared against him for espionage on behalf of China.

The first espionage count accused Chin of having conspired with Chinese intelligence agents to transmit defense-related documents potentially damaging to U.S. interests or advantageous to those of China. The second espionage count charged Chin specifically with having transmitted to a foreign agent in 1952 information about the location of prison camps in Korea where Chinese prisoners were held.[2]

In 1986, Chin was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for espionage and tax evasion. Chin admitted to the espionage, but he also claimed his deeds were intended to improve relations between China and the United States. Chin stated he would fully cooperate with debriefings in an effort to avoid further charges.

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 evidenced by his purchases of low-income housing. 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, Clyde Conrad, Robert Hanssen and John Walker are the other four.


On the day of his sentencing, when guards arrived at Chin's cell in the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center to transport him to court, they found him lifeless with a garbage bag over his head.[3][6] An autopsy concluded that Chin had committed suicide in his cell. His body was buried in Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Qian Jiang (15 January 2019). "我父亲燕大同学金无怠是世界情报史上的"超级谜团"" (in Chinese). The Paper. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Shannon, Don. Feb 8, 1986. Chin Convicted as Spy for China : He Faces the Possibility of Two Life Sentences "". Retrieved Dec 15, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Engelberg, Stephen (1986-02-22). "SPY FOR CHINA FOUND SUFFOCATED IN PRISON, APPARENTLY A SUICIDE". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-15. In the days after his conviction, Mr. Chin spoke with several reporters. [...] suggesting in an interview that his prison cell was better appointed than his room at Yenching University in Peking. - "Mr. Chin was being held in the Prince William facility until sentencing. The United States Marshal's Service, which had custody of Mr. Chin, routinely keeps such prisoners in local jails under contract,[...]"
  4. ^ Hastedt, Glenn P. (2011). Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: A-J. ABC-CLIO. p. 159. ISBN 9781851098071.
  5. ^ No, Kum-Sok (2007). A MiG-15 to freedom: memoir of the wartime North Korean defector who first delivered the secret fighter jet to the Americans in 1953. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. p. 156.
  6. ^ United Press International (1986-02-21). "Ex-CIA Man Who Spied for China Kills Self in Jail Cell : Officials Say He Suffocated Using a Plastic Bag". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-10-14.

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