By now you have probably read the news that the U.S. Justice Department has announced the arrests of ten individuals charged with spying on behalf of the Russian Federation, following the interception of messages instructing them to “search and develop ties in policymaking circles.”
It’s amazing that such a blockbuster case didn’t drop the same week that President Medvedev was visiting, but that would have been a little politically unsavory and a party spoiler. Jump over here to the DOJ site to download the two complaints, which make for very compelling reading.
Among the alleged spies arrested, there seems to be a number of deep cover married couples. Richard and Cynthia Murphy in Montclair, NJ, Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro of Yonkers, NY, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills of Arlington, VA, Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley of Boston, MA, as well as Mikhail Semenko (Arlington) and Anna Chapman (New York City). The operator of these agents, Christopher R. Mestos, is still at large.
Most of these people are relatively unknown, with the exception of Vicky Pelaez, a long-time Peruvian-American journalist and columnist at a prominent New York Spanish-language newspaper. I’m very curious to know which Latin American country Pelaez and Lazaro were traveling to so often to exchange intel and pick up money from Russian representatives. It is most likely Peru, but Venezuela would also make sense. I’m not sure it is the same person, but I’ve found Richard Murphy quoted in a 2009 Christian Science Monitor article, described as a “an independent international consultant and former US ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia.” Mikhail Semenko, possibly the same one, maintains a LinkedIn profile as an employee for “Travel All Russia, LLC” and advertises that he is “particularly interested in non-profits, think tanks, public policy, advocacy and educational institution.”
Anybody else have more info? This effort may be moot, as many of these people were using false identities.