Ten people have been arrested for allegedly serving as secret agents of the Russian government with the goal of penetrating U.S. government policymaking circles.
The Justice Department announced the arrests Monday.
According to court papers in the case, the U.S. government intercepted a message from Russian intelligence headquarters in Moscow to two of the defendants. The message states that their main mission is “to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US” and send intelligence reports.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten people have been arrested for allegedly serving as secret agents of the Russian government in the United States, the Justice Department said Monday.
Eight of 10 were arrested Sunday for allegedly carrying out long-term, deep cover assignments in the United States on behalf of Russia.
Two others were arrested for allegedly participating in the same Russian intelligence program within the United States.
Their job, according to the court papers in the case, was “to search and develop ties in policymaking circles” in the United States.
Each of the 10 was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison on conviction.
The cases were filed in U.S. District Court for the southern district of New York.
Federal law prohibits individuals from acting as agents of foreign governments within the United States without notifying the U.S. attorney general.
Nine of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum 20 years in prison on conviction.
FBI agents arrested the defendants known as Richard Murphy and Cynthia Murphy at their residence in Montclair, N.J., and they were appearing Monday in federal court in Manhattan.
Three other defendants also were being taken to federal court in Manhattan — Vicky Pelaez and a defendant known as “Juan Lazaro,” who were arrested at their residence in Yonkers, N.Y., and Anna Chapman, who was arrested in Manhattan on Sunday.
Two other defendants known as Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills were arrested at their residence in Arlington, Va., and were appearing in federal court in Alexandria, Va., on Monday.
Also being taken to federal court in Alexandria was Mikhail Semenko, who was arrested Sunday at his residence in Arlington.
Two defendants known as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley were arrested at their residence in Boston on Sunday and were appearing in federal court in Boston on Monday.
The Justice Department said that a defendant known as Christopher R. Metsos was not in custody.
The arrests were the result of a multiyear FBI investigation into an alleged network of U.S.-based agents who concealed all connections between themselves and Russia.
The U.S. government intercepted a message from Russian intelligence headquarters in Moscow to two of the defendants, Richard and Cynthia Murphy.
“You were sent to USA for long-term service trip,” the message from Moscow. “Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and sent intels,” the message added.