U.S. has arrested 10 individuals including eight “deep cover” agents on charges of spying for Russia; reminding the espionages episodes of the cold war era.
The arrests were made on Sunday and Monday in Boston, New York, New Jersey and Virginia, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday alleging that the group dubbed the “Illegals” was tasked by the Russian intelligence agency SVR to enter the U.S., assume false identities and carry out espionage activities.
“These Russian secret agents work to hide all connections between themselves and Russia, even as they act at the directions and under the control of SVR, these secrets agents are typically called “illegals”, the FBI said in its complaint filed before a U.S. court on Tuesday.
“Illegals” agents of the SVR generally receive extensive training before coming to the U.S.
This training has typically focused on, among other things, including the use of brush-passes, short-wave radio operation and invisible writing; the use of codes and ciphers, including the use of encrypted Morse code messages, the creation and use of a cover profession; counter-surveillance measures, concealment and destruction of equipment, and materials used in connection with their work as agents and avoidance of detection during their work as agents,” the FBI alleged.
Each of those charge sheeted — eleven in all including 10 arrested — faces up to five years in prison.
Nine of them have also been charge sheeted for money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment.
One of the defendants remains at large.
The FBI said the arrests are a result of multi-year investigations.
In a coded message in 2009, two of those charge sheeted were by their bosses in Russia to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and send intelligence reports to the Centre — the SVR headquarters.
The charge sheet alleges that several of those arrested had received money from the Russian missions in the US dating back to January 14, 2000.
The money at times were buried in the ground.
“To further the aims of the conspiracy, Moscow Centre has arranged for the defendants clandestinely to communicate with the Russian Federation.
In particular the conspirators have used, among other things, the secret communications methods — stenganography and radiograms,” it said.
Those charged include: Christopher Metsos, Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Donald Heathfield, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills, Juan Lazaro, Vicky Pelaez, Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko.