Paul Whelan (security director)

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Paul Whelan
Paul Nicholas Whelan[1]

March 5, 1970[2]
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
CitizenshipCanada, US, UK and Ireland
DetainedDecember 28, 2018
Time held417 days

Paul Nicholas Whelan (born March 5, 1970) is an American resident[3] corporate security director. He received a bad conduct discharge from the Marine Corps. He was reported to have worked as a police officer. He was arrested in Russia on December 28, 2018, and accused of spying, which could result in a 10- to 20-year prison sentence.[4] As of early March 2019 he had not been charged with a crime.[2]


According to a deposition Whelan gave in 2013, he was in law enforcement from 1988 to 2000 as a police officer in Chelsea, Michigan, and a sheriff's deputy in Washtenaw.[5] The Chelsea Police however said he worked in lesser roles and as a part-time officer from 1990 to 1996, while the Washtenaw County sheriff reported no record of his employment.[5] A former colleague said he was a patrol officer from 1998 to 2000 in the Keego Harbor police department.[5]

He was an IT manager for the Kelly Services staffing company from 2001[6] to 2003, and then 2008 to 2010. From 2010 to 2016 Whelan was Kelly Services' senior manager of global security and operations.[6]

He enlisted in the Marine Reserves in 1994.[5] He took military leave from Kelly Services to serve with the Marine Corps Reserve in Iraq from 2003 to 2008. He held the rank of staff sergeant with Marine Air Control Group 38 working as an administrative clerk and administrative chief, and he was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.[6] After a court-martial conviction in January 2008 on multiple counts "related to larceny", He was sentenced to 60 days restriction, reduction to pay grade E-4, and a bad conduct discharge.[7][8] The specific charges against him included attempting to steal more than $10,000 in 2006 in Iraq and using a false Social Security number to create a false account on a government computer system to grade his own examinations.[9]

When arrested in Russia, Whelan was director of global security and investigations for BorgWarner, an international automotive parts manufacturer based in Michigan.[6] His work with Kelly Services and BorgWarner gave Whelan contacts with law enforcement in many countries.

Whelan traveled to Russia several times from 2006 and maintained an intermittent presence on a Russian language social media website, Vkontakte, where he had approximately 70 contacts. He has studied Russian but communicated online using Google Translate.[10] Whelan supported President Trump and, after Trump's 2016 election victory, Whelan posted in Russian Президент Трyмп Вперед!! (President Trump Onward!!).[11][a]

Whelan holds a federal firearms dealer license registered with the trade name Kingsmead Arsenal.[b]

He said in a deposition in 2013 that he holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and an MBA degree.[12] He falsely claimed a BA from the University of Michigan in his profile on Russian social media. He took courses at Northern Michigan University from fall 1988 to fall 1990 without earning a degree.[10]

Arrest in Russia[edit]

On December 28, 2018, Whelan was arrested in the Moscow area by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which later confirmed his arrest.[13][14] Whelan's twin brother David said Paul Whelan arrived in Moscow on December 22 to attend the wedding of a former fellow Marine at the Hotel Metropol Moscow and to assist the groom's family members on their first visit to Russia, a country Paul Whelan has visited many times. He said his brother planned to return to Michigan on January 6 via Saint Petersburg.[15] David said his brother entered Russia using his U.S. passport.[16] He said his brother had not been in contact with his family. He was formally charged on January 3.[17]

According to the Russian News Agency Rosbalt, Whelan was apprehended in his hotel room at the Metropol while meeting with a Russian citizen who handed him a USB drive containing "a list of all the employees at a classified security agency". Whelan is being held in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison.[10][c]

Former CIA agents claim that the CIA would not recruit an agent with Whelan's military record, nor leave an agent exposed without a diplomatic passport.[10] They further claim that Whelan's arrest is connected to tensions between Russia and the United States, including the detention of confessed unregistered foreign agent Maria Butina.[19][20] On December 20, 2018, when discussing Butina's arrest, Putin stated that Russia "will not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them".[1]

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. met with Whelan on January 2, while Whelan was in Russian custody.[21] He told Whelan's family that Paul was "in good health and good spirits", but that the family needed to supply all his incidental needs aside from basic foodstuffs.[16][d] U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "We've made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he's been accused of and if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return."[22] On January 4, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games... We are all extremely worried about him and his family."[17] As of January 4, British and Irish consular officials were seeking access to Whelan.[23]

On January 3, Whelan's attorney, Vladimir Zherebenko,[e] said he was seeking his release on bail. He said a trial would not begin for at least six months, and that he would welcome an exchange of Whelan for Butina.[25] He said: "I presume that he is innocent because, for now, I haven’t seen any evidence against him that would prove otherwise."[10] More than a fortnight later, Zherebenkov said Whelan had been unaware of the contents of the USB stick and believed it contained material solely of personal value such as "photographs, videos, anything at all, about his previous holiday in Russia."[26]

On January 5, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that on the day after Whelan's arrest the United States had detained a Russian citizen, Dmitry Makarenko, in the Northern Marianas and transported him to Florida to face charges of unauthorized export of defense equipment.[27][f]

Personal life[edit]

Paul Whelan was born in Ottawa, Canada,[28] to British parents.[29] He is a citizen of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.[30][31] His twin brother David ascribed Paul's acquisition of the passports to "probably a genealogical interest as much as anything".[16][g]

Paul Whelan has never married and was raised in the Ann Arbor area of Michigan where he and his twin brother David graduated from Huron High School in 1988.[15] David said the family had not known Paul had a bad conduct discharge.[16] In addition to his twin brother, Paul Whelan has a brother Andrew and a sister Elizabeth.[16]

Paul Whelan lived in Novi, Michigan prior to detainment in Russia.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In this posting, he misspelled the President's name. The proper Russian spelling for the President is Трамп or Tramp.[11]
  2. ^ Verifiable at the ATF Online resource; license 4-38-XXX-XX-XX-04423.
  3. ^ Though he has been described as being held in "solitary confinement",[10] the prison's program for new prisoners is more complex than simple isolation and changes after the first ten days.[18] As of March 2019, he shared a cell with another prisoner who spoke no English.[2]
  4. ^ "But even with food, we were told that we might want to give him extra money. He'll need to buy things like razors, toilet paper, soap, things that would be on-hand anywhere else."[16]
  5. ^ Zherebenko has worked on the high-profile international case of a Russian accused of drug trafficking.[24]
  6. ^ Florida resident Vladimir Nevidomy pleaded guilty in June 2018 to conspiracy with Makarenko and was sentenced to 26 months in prison.[27]
  7. ^ "My grandfather came from Ireland to England and my father came from England to Canada, and that’s where we were born. So we were eligible for British and Canadian citizenship because we were born in Canada to British parents. And then, the Irish changed the law in the early part of the century to allow grandchildren of Irish citizens to get Irish citizenship. So he just thought it’s an opportunity to have that, so why not?"[16][23]


  1. ^ a b Macfahrquhar, Neil (December 31, 2018). "U.S. citizen arrested in Russia on spying charges". The Globe and Mail. New York Times News Service. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Kosinski, Michelle (March 8, 2019). "Details of Russian obstruction paint bleak picture for American held in Moscow". CNN. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  3. ^ Stewart, Ian (January 5, 2019). "As American Sits In Moscow Jail, Russia Says U.S. Has Detained One Of Its Citizens". NPR. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  4. ^ Maza, Cristina (December 31, 2018). "American Paul Whelan arrested in Russia on spy charges as potential retribution for Maria Butina". Newsweek. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Harris, Shane; Sonne, Paul; Ferris-Rotman, Amie (January 3, 2019). "American charged with espionage in Russia has an unlikely background for a spy". Washington Post. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Rawnsley, Adam; Woodruff, Betsy; Poulsen, Kevin (January 1, 2019). "Meet Putin's American Prisoner, Paul Whelan". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  7. ^ Shamus, Kristen Jordan (January 2, 2019). "Accused spy Paul Whelan was discharged from Marines for bad conduct". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  8. ^ "U.S. v. Whelan, Docket #200800152" (PDF). The United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (U.S. Navy JAG). Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (NMCCA). August 26, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2019. He was sentenced to 60 days restriction, reduction to pay grade E-4, and, a bad-conduct discharge.
  9. ^ "The Latest: Marines provide details of Whelan court-martial". The Washington Post. Associated Press. January 4, 2019. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Barnes, Julian E.; MacFahrquhar, Neil (January 3, 2019). "Spy or Not? American Who Loves Russia Ensnared in New Cold War". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Schifrin, Nick (January 3, 2019). "Former CIA officer says Whelan doesn't fit the profile of U.S. intelligence". PBS Newshour. Retrieved January 4, 2019. See Whelan's congratulations for Trump's 2016 election victory with his misspelling of Трамп or (Tramp) with Trymp at 1:56 in the video
  12. ^ "Deponent: Paul Nicholas Whelan" (PDF). U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan. January 18, 2013: 16. Retrieved January 22, 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Fieldstadt, Elisha (January 1, 2019). "Brother of American arrested in Russia on spy charges says he was there for a wedding". NBC News.
  14. ^ Berry, Lynn (January 1, 2019). "American arrested in Russia on spying charges was there for a wedding". The Globe and Mail. Associated Press. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Shamus, Kristen Jordan (January 2, 2019). "Twin brother of Novi man accused of spying in Russia: He's innocent". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Whelan, David (January 7, 2019). "Paul Whelan's twin opens up about Russia spy allegations, citizenship". Detroit Free Press (Interview). Interviewed by Kristen Jordan Shamus. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Spocchia, Gino (January 4, 2019). "Jeremy Hunt warns Russia not to play 'diplomatic chess games' over British man arrested for spying". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  18. ^ Nemtsova, Anna (January 2, 2019). "Paul Whelan, American Accused of Spying by Russia, Thrown in Moscow's Most Infamous Dungeon". Daily Beast. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  19. ^ Rawnsley, Adam; Woodruff, Betsy; Dozier, Kimberly (December 31, 2018). "Russia's Arrest of Paul Whelan Is Payback for Maria Butina, CIA Veterans Say". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  20. ^ Pierce, Charles P. (December 31, 2018). "The President* Is So Hopelessly Compromised". Esquire. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  21. ^ Chalfant, Morgan (January 2, 2019). "Ambassador Huntsman visits American detained in Moscow". The Hill. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  22. ^ Morello, Carol; Ferris-Rotman, Amie (January 2, 2019). "Russia allows U.S. ambassador to meet with detained American". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Ferris-Rotman, Amie (January 4, 2019). "Four countries now have links to American detained in Russia as international spillover widens". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  24. ^ "Señor K: Russia and Argentina split over mysterious drug smuggling case". The Guardian. March 3, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  25. ^ MacFahrquhar, Neil (January 3, 2019). "Paul Whelan, American Accused of Spying, Is Said to Be Charged in Russia". The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  26. ^ Bennett, Marc (January 22, 2019). "US spy suspect found with Russian 'state secrets', lawyer says". The Times. London. Retrieved January 22, 2019. (subscription required)
  27. ^ a b Metzel, Mikhail (January 5, 2018). "Moscow Accuses Washington of Detaining Russian Citizen After Whelan's Arrest". The Moscow Times. TASS. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  28. ^ "U.S. ambassador meets with Ottawa-born man arrested in Russia on spying charges". CBC News. January 2, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  29. ^ Bacon, John (January 1, 2019). "American Paul Whelan was in Russia for wedding, not to spy, family says". USA Today. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  30. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin (January 3, 2019). "Ex-US marine accused of spying in Russia is British citizen". The Guardian. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  31. ^ Ó Mongáin, Colm (January 4, 2019). "US citizen held in Moscow seeks Irish consular aid". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  32. ^ Chavez, Nicole (January 3, 2019). "Here's what we know about Paul Whelan, the US citizen accused of spying in Russia". CNN. Retrieved January 4, 2019.

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