Image: Richard and Cynthia Murphy with their children
Getty Images
Richard and Cynthia Murphy sit with their children in an undated photo. The two girls were whisked away by the FBI, and it's unclear where they are.
By
msnbc.com
updated 6/30/2010 7:00:35 PM ET 2010-06-30T23:00:35

A pool party on Sunday ended abruptly for 11-year-old Katie Murphy when the FBI swung by and whisked her back to her Montclair, N.J., home. That same night in Yonkers, N.Y., Waldomar Mariscal, 38, returned to the house he shares with his parents to find officers combing through his family’s possessions.

For 10 people alleged to be Russian spies, there is little question they’ll be held in FBI custody. But for their children, the immediate future isn’t quite as clear.

While Mariscal is an adult and the oldest of all the suspects’ children, some of the other six kids may find their lives in turmoil without their parents.

They belong to four couples who were arrested: Richard and Cynthia Murphy of Montclair, N.J., parents of 11-year-old Katie and Lisa, who is believed to be 7; Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro of Yonkers, N.Y., parents of 38-year-old Mariscal and 17-year-old son Juan Jose Lazaro, Jr.; Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley of Cambridge, Mass., who have two sons, ages 20 and 16; and Michael Zottoli and Pamela Mills of Arlington, Va., who have a toddler named Kenny.

Even the current whereabouts of the alleged spies’ kids are sketchy. After being plucked from her pool party Sunday, Katie Murphy and her sister Lisa were placed in the custody of a female FBI agent who drove them off in a van with tinted windows, neighbors said. They were carrying sleeping bags.

"When I was talking to the FBI guy last night, I said, 'Where's Katie and Lisa?'” a neighbor of the Murphys, who did not want to identify herself, told the New York Daily News. “I told him if they don't have a place to stay, send them down to us and we'll take care of them, and we would in a heartbeat.”

Zottoli and Mills, the Virginia couple, wanted their child placed with friends of the family, a spokesman for Arlington County told NJ.com. Their son is temporarily in the custody of a social service agency while the FBI conducts a background check on the friends.

17-year-old son: FBI 'knew my nickname'
Lazaro and Palaez’s younger son told El Diario, the Spanish-language newspaper where his mother was a columnist, that the FBI agents who took his parents into custody had interrogated him about his family. “They knew my nickname,” he said. “They knew absolutely everything.”

Heathfield and Foley — who identified themselves as French-Canadians when they came to the U.S. in 1999 – spoke to their two sons in French when the couple appeared in court in Boston. The alleged spies are currently being held without bail. When Foley’s lawyer, Robert Sinsheimer, was asked how his client was doing, he told the Boston Globe, “She seems like a frightened, concerned mom.”

A call to Foley’s lawyer from msnbc.com was not immediately returned. Very little information has been disclosed on the kids of the other suspects.

Mothers and fathers facing indictments retain their parental rights, said Terri Braxton, vice president of the Child Welfare League of America. For the time being, social services officials do not have the right to turn the children over to adoption agencies.

“This would be handled as anything would be handled in terms of parents being arrested,” Braxton said to msnbc.com. “Usually they are put in a temporary foster home and [officials] talk to the parents to see if there are any relatives they can go to.”

  1. Spy mystery
    1. Suspects lived like all-Americans
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    4. NYT: Alleged spy ring — thriller or sitcom?

The other two alleged spies, Anna Chapman of New York and Mikael Semenko of Arlington, Va., are believed to be single with no children.

Cases involving the arrests of both parents on spying charges are rare in the U.S. One of the most high-profile cases was Robert Meeropol, who was orphaned as a child after his parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed on spy charges during the McCarthy era. Meeropol now runs The Rosenberg Fund for Children, an organization aimed at providing emotional and educational support for children in the U.S. whose parents “have suffered because of their progressive activities,” according to the foundation’s website.

Meeropol was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Explainer: ‘Such a nice couple’: The spies next door

  • Image: US-RUSSIA-SPY-ARREST
    SHIRELEY SHEPARD  /  AFP - Getty Images
    This drawing dated June 28, 2010 shows five of the 10 arrested Russian spy suspects in a New York courtroom.
    It’s a tabloid editor’s dream come true: Ten people are accused of being undercover Russian spies, and one of them is even photogenic enough to deserve her own slideshow (see The New York Post’s tribute to what they are calling "Sexy Russian Spy Anna Chapman" here).

    But for the neighbors of the 10 people arrested throughout the Northeast, it's more of a nightmare. Who are these people who they had come to trust as a professor, a newspaper columnist, and an architect, among other well-respected professions? Video: FBI arrests 10 in alleged Russian spy ring


    “They’re such a nice couple,” Susan Coke, a real estate agent who sold a home in Montclair, N.J. to two of the suspects — who called themselves Richard and Cynthia Murphy — told The New Jersey Star-Ledger. “I just hope the FBI got it wrong.”

    You can read the the court filing about the alleged spy program here, and the Department of Justice's court complaint against two of the suspects, Mikhael Semenko and Anna Chapman, here.

    Information compiled by msnbc.com's Elizabeth Chuck and Ryan McCartney.

  • Anna Chapman, New York, N.Y.:

    Image: Anna Chapman
    AP
    Anna Chapman
    Dubbed the “femme fatale” of the Russian spy ring, Chapman, 28, said she was the founder of an online real estate company worth $2 million. The daughter of a Russian diplomat (whom her ex-husband dubbed "scary"), she said she had a master's in economics, was divorced and lived a socialite’s life in Manhattan’s Financial District. According to the New York Daily News, Chapman is the one who figured out the spy network was being monitored on Saturday, prompting the FBI to make the arrests Monday. Photographs and videos of her have popped all over the Internet (See a wrap-up on The Washington Post).

    Sources: New York Daily News, New York Post

  • Mikhail Vasenkov (a.k.a. 'Juan Lazaro') and Vicky Pelaez, Yonkers, N.Y.:

    Image: Vicky Pelaez
    AFP - Getty Images
    Vicky Pelaez

    Lazaro, 66, told people for decades that he was born in Uruguay and was a Peruvian citizen, but he is actually Russian and his real name is Mikhail Vasenkov. Lazaro admitted that he sent letters to the Russian intelligence service and that the Russian government paid for his house. He said that although he loved his son, he would not violate loyalty to the "Service," even for his child.

    Neighbors said they knew Lazaro to be an economics professor at a college in New Jersey. An agent for Russia for years, Lazaro brought his wife, Vicky Pelaez, into the conspiracy by having her pass letters to the Russian intelligence service on his behalf.

    Pelaez worked as a columnist for one of the United States' best-known Spanish-language newspapers, El Diario La Prensa. She had come to the U.S. after being briefly kidnapped by a leftist guerrilla group in Peru in 1984.

    Pelaez, 55, lived under her real name and was an American citizen, but now plans to return to Peru after a brief stay in Russia, according to her attorney.

    The couple has two sons: Waldomar Mariscal, 38 (Pelaez's son, Lazaro's stepson), and Juan Jose Lazaro, Jr., 17.

    Both sons told reporters shortly after the arrests that they didn't believe the allegations.

    "This looks like an Alfred Hitchcock movie with all this stuff from the 1960s. This is preposterous," Mariscal said. Of the charges, he said, "They're all inflated little pieces in the mosaic of unbelievable things."

    Source: New York Daily News, The Associated Press, The New York Times

  • Vladimir and Lydia Guryev (a.k.a. 'Richard and Cynthia Murphy'), Montclair, N.J.:

    Image: Alleged Russian Spies Live "Regular" Life In Suburban America
    Getty Images  /  Getty Images
    Richard and Cynthia Murphy

    Richard was an architect, a neighbor told The New Jersey Star-Ledger, and Cynthia had just gotten an MBA. Richard said he was from Philadelphia; Cynthia said she was from New York.

    The couple lived with two young daughters, Katie, 11, and Lisa, 7, in a home on Marquette Road in Montclair that they purchased for $481,000 in the fall of 2008. The two had come to the U.S. in the mid-1990s, first living in an apartment in Hoboken, N.J.

    Cynthia, 39, earned $135,000 a year as a vice president at a Manhattan firm, Morea Financial Services. Alan Patricof, a client of the firm and friend of the Clintons', told The Washington Post he believes he may have been targeted by the ring. Prosecutors said one of her assignments had been to network with Columbia University students.  Her real name is Lydia Guryev.

    Richard, 43, mostly stayed home with the children, neighbors said. His real name is Vladimir Guryev.

    Sources: Star-Ledger, New York Daily News, Politico, The Washington Post

  • Mikhail Kutsik and Natalia Pereverzeva (a.k.a. 'Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills'), Arlington, Va.:

    Image: A view of River House Apartments, where suspected Russian spies Michael Zottoli and his wife Patricia Mills lived in Arlington
    Molly Riley  /  Reuters
    River House Apartments, where Zottoli and Mills lived in Arlington, Va.

    The husband-and-wife pair lived in Seattle before they moved to Arlington, Va. in October 2009. Zottoli, 41, said he was born in Yonkers, N.Y., and Mills, 36, said she was a Canadian citizen. Records show the two moved around several times between 2002 and 2009. Zottoli was an accountant who constantly took personal calls at work, co-workers told the Seattle Times. Mills was a stay-at-home mom for the couple’s toddler, Kenny. There are reports they also have a 1-year-old.

    “They were the nicest people,” said John Evans, the couple's former apartment manager. “In fact, I wish they had stayed on as tenants. They were really good tenants.”

    When their Seattle apartment was searched in February 2006, FBI agents reportedly found password-protected computer disks that contained a “stenography program employed by the SVR.”

    His real name is Mikhail Kutsik. Her real name is Natalia Pereverzeva.

    Sources: KOMO-TV, Washington Post, The Seattle Times

  • Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova (a.k.a. 'Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley'), Cambridge, Mass.:

    Image:Residence owned by Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, who were arrested Sunday by the FBI on allegations of being Russian spies.
    Russell Contreras  /  AP
    Heathfield and Foley's home

    The “Boston Conspirators,” as the FBI dubbed them, identified themselves as French-Canadian when they came to the U.S. in 1999.

    Heathfield, 49, received a master’s from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2000 and worked as a consultant for a Cambridge-based consulting firm called Global Partners Inc — a job that allegedly enabled him to contact a former high-ranking U.S. government national security official. He also had his own consulting company, Future Map Strategic Advisory Services LLC. His real name is Andrey Bezrukov.

    Foley, 47, was a real estate agent who showed houses in the Boston area. She worked on a contract basis for the real estate brokerage Redfin. Her real name is Elena Vavilova.

    They spoke to their two sons, ages 20 and 16, in French when they appeared in court in Boston following the arrests.

    Craig Sandler, a former classmate of Heathfield, told The Boston Globe the Russian spy was friendly and intelligent. Other classmates told The New York Times he had a taste for Scotch and described him as a “flavorful conversationalist” who was smart and funny.

    “It never crossed my mind that he might be a spy,” Sandler said. “But it’s not completely flabbergasting. He seems like a guy who would make a pretty good spy.”

    Sources: Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Harvard Crimson, New York Times

  • Mikhael Semenko, Arlington, Va.:

    Mikhael Semenko, 28, was a travel specialist at Travel All Russia LLC’s in Arlington, Va. He joined the company in 2009 and was described as a friendly and diligent worker who spoke Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, in addition to Russian and English, according to a statement released by the company after his arrest. Semenko’s LinkedIn profile indicates he was particularly interested in non-profits, think tanks, public policy and educational institutions.

    Semenko also has a Twitter account, a Facebook profile, and a blog called “Chinese Economy Today.

    Semenko graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in international relations in 2008, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    Arrested at his home in Arlington, he was accused of using sophisticated communications equipment and making incriminating statements to an undercover agent posing as a Russian official. According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, FBI officials met Semenko just blocks from the White House, at the intersection of 10th and H Street. “Could we have met in Beijing in 2004?” the undercover agent asked. “Yes, we might have but I believe it was in Harbin,” Semenko reportedly replied.

    See below for other code words and phrases the suspects used.

    Sources: Daily Telegraph, LinkedIn, Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press

  • Christopher R. Metsos, arrested in Cyprus:

    Image: Photo of Robert Christopher Metsos Russian spy
    Cyprus Police / Handout  /  EPA
    Christopher Metsos

    Very little is known about Metsos’ background or current whereabouts.

    Officials said he arrived in the coastal town of Larnaca in Cyprus on June 17 and was arrested June 29 on an Interpol warrant while he was waiting to board a flight to Hungary. A Cyprus judge decided to release Metsos on $33,000 bail. Metsos failed to show up to a required meeting with Larnaca police following his release, initiating a manhunt for the final member of the group of Russian spies.

    Officials fear Metsos could flee to northern Cyprus, which the AP described as a “diplomatic no-mans-land.”

    Metsos, age 54 or 55, carries a Canadian passport and is what U.S. prosecutors called the “money man” of the group. He is accused of receiving and distributing money to the group and of conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to the U.S. Justice Department, he was given payments by a Russian official affiliated with Moscow's mission to the United Nations in a spy novel style "brush-pass" handoff and buried money in rural New York that was recovered two years later by another suspect.

    Sources: The Associated Press

  • Code words, phrases suspects used

    Following are among the phrases used by the alleged agents, their handlers and, deceptively, by U.S. counter-espionage officials in exchanges designed to verify a contact's identity.

    "Excuse me, but haven't we met in California last summer?"

    "No, I think it was the Hamptons."

    "Could we have met in Beijing in 2004?"

    "Yes, we might have, but I believe it was in Harbin"

    "Excuse me, did we meet in Bangkok in April last year?."

    "I don't know about April, but I was in Thailand in May of that year."

    Source: Reuters

Video: Spies, lies and videotape

  1. Transcript of: Spies, lies and videotape

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There are new details tonight about the supposed Russian spies among us. We're learning new things about who they apparently were, what secrets they were trying to steal and how they operated undercover in this country. As we hear from NBC 's Andrea Mitchell tonight, at least one of the undercover operators left a trail of videotape.

    ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: She was a New York party girl and now an Internet sensation, 28-year-old Anna Chapman , provocative, describing herself as the founder of an online real estate firm.

    Ms. ANNA CHAPMAN: I launched this business purely because I wanted to help someone.

    MITCHELL: The FBI says Chapman was actually helping her spy bosses in Moscow . At a Starbucks in midtown Manhattan , or a Barnes and Noble downtown, setting up a closed wireless network on her laptop to pass messages to her handler in a minivan parked outside. In a promotional video for a business conference , she was all sales pitch.

    Ms. CHAPMAN: But I think most challenging part of my life really started when I quit all my jobs, really cut all my salaries and really did something I wanted to do. And even though my company was much smaller than any investment bank you can imagine, it was far more challenging.

    MITCHELL: Chapman and the others didn't lack for excitement, the FBI says, using invisible ink, secret codes, and picking up thousands of dollars in cash buried upstate to finance their cover stories.

    Ms. CHAPMAN: I will show up, I will have a business meeting at 2:00.

    MITCHELL: No couple appeared more all American than two of the other suspects, Richard and Cynthia Murphy , seen here in their Montclair , New Jersey , backyard. Thirteen-year-old Blake Lapin played with their kids.

    Mr. BLAKE LAPIN: I was totally surprised. It -- out of anyone on the block, they would be the last people that you'd expect.

    MITCHELL: Today the mailman made his normal drop at the Murphys ' house while neighbors were still amazed.

    Mr. STEPHEN CAPONE (Neighbor): They never did anything out of the ordinary. I mean, there was nothing that was like suspicious or anything that was odd.

    MITCHELL: Also puzzled, American intelligence experts, wondering how the Russians expected to learn President Obama 's strategy for a Moscow summit from spies living in the New York suburbs.

    Mr. DAVID WISE (Intelligence Expert): That's the kind of information you could only get if you were a fly on the wall in the White House . I don't see how you're going to get it living in the Yonkers .

    MITCHELL: Tonight, Anna Chapman 's accused handler has disappeared, skipped bail in Cyprus . But Chapman and the others remain behind bars in the US. Andrea Mitchell , NBC News, Washington.

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