Prosecutors: US network ready to aid spy ring

Attorney warns against releasing alleged spies on bail.

July 2, 2010 10:01
Artist's rendering of, from left, Patricia Mills,

Russian spies 311. (photo credit: AP)

A prosecutor warned that a powerful and sophisticated network of US-based Russian agents was eager to help defendants in an alleged spy ring flee the country on bail. US authorities also said one defendant confessed that he worked for Russia's intelligence service and others had large amounts of cash.

"There are a lot of Russian government officials in the United States who are actively assisting this conspiracy," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz told US Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis on Thursday as he argued that those arrested last weekend should remain held without bail.


If freed, Farbiarz warned, the defendants would certainly flee, using coconspirators in the United States to disappear and the tentacles of "one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world."

Farbiarz said the defendants have a "powerful sophisticated network they can call upon in the United States."

The prosecutor's claims were countered by lawyers for several defendants who said that their clients, accused of going undercover in American cities and suburbs, were harmless and should be released on bail.

"It's all hyperbole, your honor," attorney Donna Newman said on behalf of Richard Murphy.

She said Murphy was a stay-at-home-dad who did the chores while his wife Cynthia earned a good living.

Farbiarz said the couple was proof that the defendants carried out "deception and lies at a systematic level."

He said US agents had been surveilling them for years and yet "after all those years of listening, there is no inkling at all that their children who they live with have any idea their parents are Russian agents."

Ellis said the disappearance of Metsos after he was granted bail on the Mediterranean island did not affect his ruling. "I don't know what they do in Cyprus," the judge said.

Lazaro: Incriminating statements

Lawyers for Juan Lazaro asked to postpone his bail hearing just hours after prosecutors revealed in a letter to Ellis that Lazaro had made incriminating statements.

US authorities said in their court filing that Lazaro made a lengthy statement after his June 27 arrest in which he discussed some details of the operation, which prosecutors said involved Russian moles on a long-term mission to infiltrate American society.

Among other things, prosecutors said, he admitted that Juan Lazaro was not his real name, that he wasn't born in Uruguay and wasn't a citizen of Peru, as he had long claimed, that his home in Yonkers, N.Y., had been paid for by Russian intelligence and that his wife, Pelaez, had passed letters to the "Service" on his behalf.

He also told investigators that even though he loved his son, "he would not violate his loyalty to the 'Service' even for his son," three assistant US attorneys wrote in a court memo. They added that Lazaro, who investigators claim spent at least part of his childhood in Siberia, also wouldn't reveal his true name.

Federal prosecutors said they had searched a safe-deposit box belonging to the Murphys this week and found eight unmarked envelopes each stuffed with $10,000.

Earlier in the day, the lawyer for another suspect, Donald Heathfield, told a judge the case against his client was "extremely thin."

"It essentially suggests that they successfully infiltrated neighborhoods, cocktail parties and the PTA," said his attorney, Peter Krupp.

A judge in a federal court in Boston gave Heathfield and his wife, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, of Cambridge, Mass., until July 16 to prepare for a bail hearing.

As they entered the court in handcuffs and leg shackles, the couple smiled at their sons, a teenager and a college student. The boys waved to their parents.

Not due in court Thursday was Anna Chapman, the alleged spy whose heavy presence on the Internet and New York party scene has made her a tabloid sensation. She was previously ordered held without bail.

There is evidence that at least some of the alleged agents had success cultivating contacts.

Clare Lopez, senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and a former operations officer for the CIA, said the alleged plotters might have someday been able to produce valuable information, if left in place long enough.

"Their value is not just in acquiring classified information," she said. "There's a lot that goes on that's not simply stealing secrets and sending them back to Moscow."

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