Image: Anna Chapman
AP
This image taken from the Russian social networking website "Odnoklassniki" shows a woman journalists have identified as Anna Chapman. She was arrested on charges of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/2/2010 7:21:18 AM ET 2010-07-02T11:21:18

The ex-husband of alleged Russian spy Anna Chapman said her arrest "didn’t come as much of a surprise," Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

Alex Chapman, 30, said he had been interviewed by Britain's MI5 intelligence service after his ex-wife was accused of being a Russian agent by U.S. authorities earlier this week.

He said that his former spouse told him that her father had been "high up in the ranks of the KGB," the newspaper reported.

"Her father controlled everything in her life, and I felt she would have done anything for her dad,” he told the newspaper. “When I saw that she had been arrested on suspicion of spying it didn’t come as much of a surprise to be honest."

"Towards the end of our marriage she became very secretive, going for meetings on her own with 'Russian friends’ and I guess it might have been because she was in contact with the Russian government," he added.

The couple married in Moscow in 2002, five months after they met in a London nightclub, the newspaper reported. They divorced in 2006.

Alex Chapman described his ex-wife’s father, Vasily Kushchenko, as "scary". He said Kushchenko was serving as a diplomat in Zimbabwe when they met during their honeymoon in 2002.

"He always seemed to have a lot more security than the other diplomats," he told the Telegraph. "He had a Land Rover with blacked out windows and there was always one car in front of it and one car behind."

Meanwhile, U.S. prosecutors said that Russian spy suspect Juan Lazaro admitted his name was an alias, but he has refused to give his real name — not "even for his son" — according to court papers.

Lazaro's admission — and defiance — was revealed Thursday by federal prosecutors arguing against bail for him, his wife and another couple with children. The U.S. government claims those defendants and seven others were part of a spy ring on assignment to infiltrate America's cities and suburbs for the Russian intelligence service.

Their cover was so deep, "there is no inkling at all that their children, who they live with, have any idea their parents are Russian agents," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.

'Conspiracy'
Farbiarz warned that a powerful and sophisticated network of U.S.-based Russian agents was eager to help defendants in the spy ring flee the country if they were released on bail.

"There are a lot of Russian government officials in the United States who are actively assisting this conspiracy," he said.

The judge ruled that two defendants, Cynthia and Richard Murphy, should remain in custody because there was no other way to guarantee they would not flee since it's unclear who they really are.

But he set bail of $250,000 for Lazaro's wife, prominent Spanish-language journalist Vicky Pelaez, a U.S. citizen born in Peru, saying she did not appear to be trained as a spy. The judge required electronic monitoring and home detention and said she would not be freed before Tuesday, giving prosecutors time to appeal.

The judge ruled after Farbiarz said the evidence against the defendants continued to mount and the case was solid.

"Judge, this is a case where the evidence is extraordinarily strong," Farbiarz said. "Prosecutors don't get cases like this very often."

The decision to set bail for one defendant came as police on the island nation of Cyprus searched airports, ports and yacht marinas to find a man who had been going by the name Christopher Metsos, who disappeared after a judge there freed him on $32,500 bail.

Metsos failed to show up Wednesday for a required meeting with police. He was charged by U.S. authorities with supplying funds to the other members of the spy ring.

In New York, prosecutors cited new evidence such as $80,000 in new $100 bills found in the safe-deposit box of the Murphys, who had been living in a Montclair, N.J., home paid for with money from the Russian intelligence service.

Other evidence included the discovery of multiple cellular phones and currencies in a safe-deposit box and other "tools of the trade when they're in this business," Farbiarz said.

He said the spy ring consisted of people who for decades had worked to Americanize themselves while engaging in secret global travel with false passports, secret code words, fake names, invisible ink, encrypted radio transmissions and techniques so sophisticated that prosecutors chose not to describe them in court papers.

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The prosecutors' claims were countered by lawyers for several defendants who said their clients were harmless and should be released on bail.

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

Lawyers for Lazaro asked to postpone his bail hearing just hours after prosecutors revealed in a letter to the judge that their client had made incriminating statements.

U.S. authorities said in their court filing that Lazaro made a lengthy statement after his Sunday arrest in which he discussed some details of the operation.

Among other things, prosecutors said, he admitted that Juan Lazaro wasn't his real name, that he wasn't born in Uruguay, as he had long claimed, that his home in Yonkers had been paid for by Russian intelligence and that his wife 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 U.S. attorneys wrote in a court memo. They added that Lazaro spent at least part of his childhood in Siberia.

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," attorney Peter Krupp said.

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.

Video: Alleged spies lived as party girl, mom

Not due in court Thursday was Chapman, the spy suspect whose heavy presence on the Internet and New York party scene has made her a tabloid sensation. She was previously ordered held without bail. Her lawyer said the case against her is weak, and her mother said she's innocent.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Video: FBI: Man acknowledges Russian espionage ring

  1. Transcript of: FBI: Man acknowledges Russian espionage ring

    ANN CURRY, anchor: Meantime, prosecutors convinced a judge on Thursday to deny bail to more of the suspects in that alleged Russian spy ring they say was operating in the US. And there was also a stunning admission in court. We've got NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell now joining us with more on this from Washington . Andrea , tell us more. Good morning.

    ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Good morning, Ann. A New York judge has released one of the suspected spies on bail, under house arrest and with electronic monitoring . But the judge refused to release a New Jersey couple who are said to be key players in this alleged ring. One of the suspects has acknowledged his connections to Russian intelligence . But the glamorous woman who is getting all that attention, she is not talking. Anna Chapman , always the life of the party , is now in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn jail as new details emerge about the Bond girl in this spy story . Her family name, Kushchenko , and spying may have been the family business . Her former husband Alex told The Daily Telegraph she told him her father was high up in the KGB . Alex Chapman has already been interviewed by MI5 , Britain 's famed spy service. The young couple lived in a fancy London flat, but she enhanced her resume only working briefly for NetJets Europe and Barclays Bank .

    Ms. ANNA CHAPMAN: And then I was also an investment banker.

    MITCHELL: A New York judge denied bail for two other suspects, Richard and Cynthia Murphy , claiming she reported to Moscow on fellow business students at Columbia University and her clients, like New York Democratic fundraiser Alan Patricof , a big Clinton supporter. Patricof says he never discussed politics with the Russian woman, only his personal finances. The judge did set bond for one of the suspects, Spanish language journalist Vicky Pelaez , placing her under house arrest and electronic monitoring , but giving the government time to appeal.

    Mr. CARLOS MORENO (Defense Attorney): We are confident that Vicky Pelaez is innocent of these charges.

    MITCHELL: The man accused of being the ring's paymaster, Christopher Metsos , jumped bail in Cyprus , setting off a frantic manhunt on land and sea. The government argues that all the suspects could be helped by Russian officials and a sophisticated intelligence network in New York City and -- even, if they wanted to jump bail, so that they should be held. But the judge will delay some of the other rulings until next week.

    CURRY: All right, Andrea Mitchell reporting this morning. Andrea , thanks.

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

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