The suspects in a Russian spy ring lived all-American lives
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Richard and Cynthia Murphy raised two children in a colonial house with maroon shutters on a winding street in suburban New Jersey. Cynthia, a vice president at a financial services firm, tended hydrangeas out front. Katie, 11, and Lisa, 7, rode pink bicycles around a nearby cul-de-sac.
Neighbors noticed that Cynthia had a slight accent -- Scandinavian, she told them.
It seemed like a model upper-middle-class life. But according to federal prosecutors, the house on Marquette Road was owned by the "Moscow Center," an intelligence arm of the Russian government. U.S. officials say Richard and Cynthia Murphy -- probably not their real names -- were deep-cover Russian agents, two of 11 operatives who until their arrests this week lived for years like ordinary Americans while secretly reporting to Moscow.
"It's just staggering," said venture capitalist Alan Patricof, who suspects he is the unnamed businessman described by authorities as having been targeted by Cynthia Murphy. "It's off the charts."
Patricof, a longtime confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton, knew Murphy through the Manhattan firm Morea Financial Services, a tax service where she worked and he was a client. Although he said they discussed only business, intercepted communications from the suspect's superiors mentioned a "New York-based financier" as a possible source of information about U.S. foreign policy and White House intelligence, according to the criminal complaint in the case.
Details that emerged Tuesday about the alleged spies' lives added to the mystery of a network that prosecutors say extended from Manhattan to Seattle and the heart of the Washington area. Though utterly unremarkable to their neighbors, the suspects allegedly buried stashes of money and wrote messages in invisible ink as they sought to collect tidbits about U.S. policy and secrets.
On closer inspection, there seemed to be hints that something was going on. The suspect known as Anna Chapman, who operated an online real estate company in New York, revealed on her Facebook page that she was educated in Moscow and belonged to an organization of Russian-speaking professionals. Another suspect, adjunct college professor Juan Lazaro, was recorded on an FBI wiretap describing his childhood to the woman who lived as his wife.
"We moved to Siberia . . . as soon as the war started," the Yonkers, N.Y. resident said, according to the complaint.
FBI agents arrested 10 people in the United States on Sunday, including the Murphys and three suspects in Arlington County. On Tuesday, as officials in the United States and Russia sought to prevent the case from harming relations between the two countries, the 11th person charged in Manhattan federal court was arrested on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus as he was about to fly to Budapest.
Attorneys for the suspects either could not be reached or declined to comment.
Unlike famous spies such as Aldrich H. Ames and Robert P. Hanssen, who did incalculable damage to U.S. national security, those charged this week were ordered not to seek classified data, some federal officials said.
"They were here under deep cover, as a network in case Russian intelligence ever needed anything," said one law enforcement official, who like others quoted in this report spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. "The idea was that they would become so Americanized that no one can ever find any connection between them and Russia."