Christopher John Boyce

Christopher John Boyce (born 16 February 1953) is a former American defense industry employee who was convicted for selling United States spy satellite secrets to the Soviet Union in the 1970s.[1]

Christopher John Boyce
Christopher John Boyce's U.S. Marshals Service mugshot
Born (1953-02-16) 16 February 1953 (age 69)
Other namesAnthony Edward Lester
Known forEspionage
Notable work
American Sons: The Untold Story of The Falcon and The Snowman
Spouse(s)Kathleen Mills (2001)

Early lifeEdit

Boyce is the son of Noreen Boyce (née Hollenbeck) and former McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation Director of Security Charles Eugene Boyce. Along with his three brothers and five sisters, Boyce was reared in Southern California, in the affluent community of Rancho Palos Verdes, a suburb southwest of Los Angeles.

In 1974, Boyce was hired at TRW, an aerospace firm in Redondo Beach, California. Due to his father's position at McDonnell Douglas, Boyce was able to obtain employment.


Within months, Boyce was promoted to a highly sensitive position in TRW's "Black Vault" (classified communications center) with a top secret security clearance, where he worked with National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) transmissions.[2]

Boyce claims that he began getting misrouted cables from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) discussing the agency's desire to depose the government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia. Boyce claimed the CIA wanted Whitlam removed from office because he wanted to close U.S. military bases in Australia, including the vital Pine Gap secure communications facility, and withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam. For these reasons some claim[according to whom?] that U.S. government pressure was a major factor in the dismissal of Whitlam as Prime Minister by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, who according to Boyce, was referred to as "our man Kerr" by CIA officers.[3] Through the cable traffic Boyce saw that the CIA was involving itself in such a manner, not just with Australia but with other democratic, industrialized allies. Boyce considered going to the press, but believed the media's earlier disclosure of CIA involvement in the 1973 Chilean coup d'état had not changed anything for the better.[citation needed]

Instead, he gathered a quantity of classified documents concerning secure U.S. communications ciphers and spy satellite development and had his friend Andrew Daulton Lee, a cocaine and heroin dealer since his high school days (hence his nickname, "The Snowman"), deliver them to Soviet embassy officials in Mexico City, returning with large sums of cash for Boyce (nicknamed "The Falcon" because of his longtime interest in falconry) and himself. According to a book that Boyce and his wife co-authored, the information was not valuable to the Soviet Union.[4]


Boyce, then 23, was finally exposed after Lee was arrested by Mexican police in front of the Soviet embassy on 6 January 1977.[5] His arrest was "almost by accident": Lee was arrested for littering.[5] During his harsh interrogation, Lee, who had top secret microfilm in his possession when arrested, confessed to being a Soviet spy and implicated Boyce. Boyce was arrested ten days later on 16 January, when the FBI found him hiding out at the shack he was renting near Riverside, California. He was convicted on eight counts of espionage on 28 April 1977,[6][7][8] and sentenced by federal district judge Robert Kelleher on 12 September to forty years in prison,[9] initially at Terminal Island, then the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. On 10 July 1979, he was transferred to the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, California.


On 21 January 1980, Boyce escaped from Lompoc.[5][10][11] While a fugitive, Boyce carried out 17 bank robberies in Idaho and Washington, hoping to pay for passage to the Soviet Union, and adopted the alias of "Anthony Edward Lester."[12]

According to Boyce, he studied aviation, not to flee to the Soviet Union as some suspected, but to rescue Daulton Lee from Lompoc.[13]

On 21 August 1981, Boyce was arrested by U.S. Marshals while eating in his car outside "The Pit Stop," a drive-in restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington.[14][15] Authorities had received a tip about Boyce's whereabouts from his former bank robbery confederates.

Return to prisonEdit

In the spring of 1982, Boyce appeared before Judge Harold Ryan in U.S. District Court in Boise and was sentenced to three years for his escape and 25 years for bank robbery, conspiracy, and breaking federal gun laws.[16][17][18][19] Given an aggregate total sentence of 68 years, he was transferred to United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.[20][21]

Later that year, Boyce gave a television interview to Ray Martin for Australia's 60 Minutes about the dismissal of Whitlam. After this he was assaulted by fellow inmates, an attack he believed was orchestrated by prison guards.[22] After the attack, he was transferred to USP Marion, where he was held in isolation.[23]

In April 1985, Boyce gave testimony on how to prevent insider spy threats to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations as part of its Government Personnel Security Program.[24][25]

In 1988, with support from senators, he was transferred, out of solitary confinement, to Minnesota Correctional Facility – Oak Park Heights.[26] He was transferred to ADX Florence in Colorado in 1998; in his opinion, this was punishment for a newspaper article that he had written.[27] In 2000, he was transferred to FCI Sheridan in Oregon, northwest of Salem.[28]

Release and subsequent lifeEdit

Boyce was released from prison on parole on 16 September 2002 after serving a little more than 25 years, accounting for his time spent outside from the escape.[29][30] Shortly thereafter he married Kathleen Mills, whom he had met when she was working as a paralegal spearheading efforts to obtain parole for Lee. After her success with Lee, she turned her attention to securing parole for Boyce as well, and the two developed a personal relationship.[31] Boyce is on good terms with his father and eight siblings, and was with his mother as well until her death in 2017.[32]

In 2013, Boyce published a book titled American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, which mainly discusses his time in prison and relationship with his wife, Kathleen, and writer Vince Font. At that time, he was living a relatively quiet life where he has resumed his participation in falconry as a frequent pastime.[32] When interviewed at the time his book was released, Boyce expressed support for the actions of Edward Snowden in exposing information about the United States government's surveillance programs.[32]

In popular cultureEdit

The story of their case was told in Robert Lindsey's best-selling 1979 book The Falcon and the Snowman. This book was turned into a film of the same title in 1985 by director John Schlesinger starring Timothy Hutton as Boyce and Sean Penn as Lee.

Lindsey's initial book was followed by The Flight of the Falcon: The True Story of the Escape and Manhunt for America's Most Wanted Spy (1983), an account of Boyce's escape from prison and subsequent bank robbing spree.


  1. ^ "Spy's arrest ends chapter in saga". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 23 August 1981. p. 4A.
  2. ^ Pilger, John, A Secret Country, Vintage Books, London, 1992, ISBN 9780099152316, pp. 212-15, 230, 236, 252.
  3. ^ Martin, Ray (23 May 1982). "A Spy's Story: USA Traitor Gaoled For 40 Years After Selling Codes of Rylite and Argus Projects (transcript)". 60 Minutes. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  4. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. p. 240.
  5. ^ a b c "Man convicted as Soviet spy escapes from federal prison". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). UPI. 22 January 1980. p. 3A.
  6. ^ "Man found guilty of spying; government to seek life term". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. 29 April 1977. p. 5.
  7. ^ "'Reluctant' spy guilty of 8 espionage counts". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 29 April 1977. p. 7A.
  8. ^ "Spying suspect found guilty". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 15 May 1977. p. 1A.
  9. ^ Lindsey, Robert (13 September 1977). "Sold the Russians secrets on U.S. satellites that monitored the Soviet Union and China". New York Times. p. 13.
  10. ^ "Spy flees prison". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. 23 January 1980. p. 3, part 1.
  11. ^ US Marshals Service - Capture of Christopher Boyce
  12. ^ "He needed money, and he found banks an easy mark. He hit a dozen of them throughout the Pacific Northwest, hoping to pay for passage to the Soviet Union. He would have friends there, he thought. He would be safe. But these would be mere flights of fancy."
  13. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. pp. 63–65, 80–86.
  14. ^ "Escaped spy Boyce posed as fisherman". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 23 August 1981. p. 3A.
  15. ^ "Agents went incognito to catch spy". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 23 August 1981. p. 4A.
  16. ^ "Boyce enters guilty plea to 10 counts". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. 3 April 1982. p. 1B.
  17. ^ "Boyce faces sentence". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. 30 April 1982. p. 5B.
  18. ^ "Boyce sentenced to 25 years". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. 1 May 1982. p. 3B.
  19. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. pp. 132–33.
  20. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. p. 139.
  21. ^ "
  22. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. pp. 145–49.
  23. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. pp. 158–60.
  24. ^ Christopher Boyce Testimony, NOIR for USA
  25. ^[bare URL PDF]
  26. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. p. 200.
  27. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. pp. 252–53.
  28. ^ Boyce, Christopher; Boyce, Cait; Font, Vince (2013). The Falcon and the Snowman: American Sons. Vince Font LLC. pp. 267–70.
  29. ^ U.S. spy freed after 25 years in prison / Christopher Boyce sold secrets to Soviets. Chuck Squatriglia, San Francisco Chronicle, 15 March 2003.
  30. ^ The Falcon and the Fallout, Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times, 23 June 2007.
  31. ^ Denson, Bryan (6 March 2014). "Christopher Boyce, whose spy work inspired 'The Falcon and the Snowman', finds happiness in Oregon". The Oregonian.
  32. ^ a b c Miller, Sheila G. (10 November 2013). "The (ex) spy among us". The Bulletin.

Further readingEdit

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