Spy confesses to Russia link

One of the suspects in an alleged spy ring has confessed to federal agents that he worked for Russia’s intelligence service, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

NEW YORK — One of the suspects in an alleged spy ring has confessed to federal agents that he worked for Russia’s intelligence service, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The revelation came on a day when several defendants in the case were making court appearances, even as authorities scoured a Mediterranean island for an alleged co-conspirator who disappeared after he was granted bail.

Authorities said in a court filing that Juan Lazaro made a lengthy statement after his June 27 arrest in which he discussed some details of the operation, which prosecutors said involved Russian moles living under assumed identities in American suburbs.

Among other things, he admitted that “Juan Lazaro” was not his real name, that 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, the Peruvian journalist Vicky Pelaez, 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.

The lawyer for another suspect told a judge Thursday that his client was innocent.

Donald Heathfield and his wife, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, appeared in federal court in Boston on Thursday for a bail hearing. A judge granted a delay until July 16 to give their new lawyers time to prepare.

Heathfield’s lawyer, Peter Krupp, said afterward the evidence revealed so far against his client is “extremely thin.”

“It essentially suggests that they successfully infiltrated neighbourhoods, cocktail parties and the PTA,” he said. “My client looks forward to facing the charges.”

As they entered the court in handcuffs and leg shackles, the couple smiled at their sons, a teenager and a college student.

A magistrate judge in Alexandria, Virginia, postponed a hearing for three other people accused of being foreign agents, Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko. It has been rescheduled for Friday.

Hearings also were set for additional defendants in New York, including Lazaro, Pelaez and Richard and Cynthia Murphy.

Police on Thursday searched airports, ports and yacht marinas to find an 11th person who was arrested in Cyprus but disappeared after a judge there freed him on $32,500 bail. The man, who had gone by the name Christopher Metsos, failed to show up Wednesday for a required meeting with police.

Authorities also examined surveillance video from crossing points on the war-divided island, fearing the suspect might have slipped into the breakaway north, a diplomatic no-man’s-land that’s recognized only by Turkey and has no extradition treaties.

Not due in court Thursday was Russian beauty Anna Chapman, the alleged spy whose heavy presence on the Internet and New York party scene has made her a tabloid sensation.

She was previously ordered held without bail.

Eight of the suspects were accused by prosecutors of being foreign-born, husband-and-wife teams who were supposed to be Americanizing themselves and gradually developing ties to policymaking circlea.

Most were living under assumed identities, according to the FBI. Their true names and citizenship remain unknown, but several are suspected of being Russians by birth.

Heathfield claimed to be a Canadian but was using a birth certificate of a deceased Canadian boy, agents said in a court filing. His wife, Foley, purported to be from Canada, too, but investigators said they searched a family safe deposit box found photographs taken of her when she was in her 20s that had been developed by a Soviet film company.

Lazaro had said he was born in Uruguay and was a citizen of Peru; he was secretly recorded by the FBI talking about a childhood in Siberia, according to court documents.

Two, Chapman and Semenko, were Russians who didn’t attempt to hide their national origin, FBI agents said, but they had a similar mission: blend in, network and learn what they could.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said the U.K. was investigating whether Foley might have used a forged British passport. The British spy agency MI5 also is investigating the extent to which Foley and Chapman had links to London, and will likely seek to find out whether either attempted to recruit British officials as informants.

There is evidence that at least some of the alleged agents had success cultivating contacts in the business, academic and political worlds.

The criminal complaint alleges that either Heathfield or Foley sent messages to Moscow talking about turnover at the CIA that was supposedly “received in private conversation” with a former congressional aide. Other messages described Heathfield establishing contact with a former high ranking U.S. national security official, and with a U.S. researcher who worked on bunker-busting nuclear warheads.

Moscow thanked Cynthia Murphy for having passed along “very useful” information about the global gold market and instructed her to strengthen ties with students and professors at Columbia University’s business school, where she was getting a degree, according to the FBI.

Among other things, the Russians wanted “detailed personal data and character traits w. preliminary conclusions about their potential to be recruited by Service,” according to one intercepted message.

Clare Lopez, senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and a professor at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security and a former operations officer for the CIA, said the alleged plotters might have someday been able to produce valuable information, if left in place long enough.

“Their value is not just in acquiring classified information,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes on that’s not simply stealing secrets and sending them back to Moscow.”

Metsos was charged with supplying funds to the other members of the ring.

Cypriot Justice Minister Loucas Louca on Thursday admitted that a judge’s decision to release him on bail “may have been mistaken” and said authorities were examining leads on his possible whereabouts.

“We have some information and we hope that we will arrest him soon,” Louca told reporters, without elaborating.

Cyprus has for decades been a hotbed of espionage intrigue as spies converge on the eastern Mediterranean island at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia.

More recently, former CIA agent Harold Nicholson, in prison for espionage, recruited his 24-year-old son Nathaniel to meet with Russian agents in cities around the world from 2006 to 2008 to collect money owed by his former handlers. One of those cities was the Cypriot capital, Nicosia.

———

Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Boston, Karen Matthews in New York and Menelaos Hadijcostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Liberals to release federal budget with eye on managing crisis, post-pandemic growth

OTTAWA — The federal government will this afternoon unveil its spending plans… Continue reading

In this image from NASA, NASA's experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s experimental helicopter Ingenuity rose into the thin… Continue reading

In this August 21, 1994 file photo, Rwandan Hutus give the departing French troops the thumbs-up as the French army pull out of Cyangugu, in southwest Rwanda. A report commissioned by the Rwandan government due to be made public on Monday, April 19, 2021 concludes that the French government bears "significant" responsibility for "enabling a foreseeable genocide" that left more than 800,000 dead in 1994 and that that France "did nothing to stop" the massacres. (AP Photo/Jean Marc Bouju, File)
Rwanda report blames France for ‘enabling’ the 1994 genocide

PARIS — The French government bears “significant” responsibility for “enabling a foreseeable… Continue reading

In this March 19, 2021, file photo, residents wearing masks ride pass government propaganda with slogans some of which read "Forever follow the Party" and "China's Ethnicities One Family" in the city of Aksu in western China's Xinjiang region. A human rights group appealed to the United Nations on Monday, April 19, 2021 to investigate allegations China's government is committing crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
Group urges UN to probe China for crimes against humanity

KASHGAR, China — A human rights group appealed to the United Nations… Continue reading

People eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations can call the Kent Senior Center for appointments at the city facility. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent
Alberta joins Ontario in lowering minimum age for AstraZeneca vaccine

Two provinces will offer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 40 and… Continue reading

In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?

TOKYO — The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with… Continue reading

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, right, greets Bayern's Lucas Hernandez at the end of the Champions League, second leg, quarterfinal soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
PSG, Bayern the big names missing from Super League plan

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The plan for the new Super League soccer competition… Continue reading

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Marion Cotillard, left, and Brad Pitt appear in a scene from "Allied." (Daniel Smith/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Leo Carax’s ‘Annette’ to open Cannes Film Festival

Leo Carax’s “Annette,” starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, will open the… Continue reading

From left, Producer Doug Mitchell, actor Chris Hemsworth and director George Miller attend at a press conference to announce the new "Mad Max" film at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, Monday, April 19, 2021. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)
‘Mad Max’ prequel shot in Outback to be released in 2023

SYDNEY, Australia — A prequel to the “Mad Max” movie franchise starring… Continue reading

In this Feb. 1, 2021 file photo, emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo. President Joe Biden faces a vexing task as he convenes a virtual climate summit on Thursday. He is expected to present a nonbinding but symbolic goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will have a tangible impact not only on climate change efforts in the U.S. but throughout the world. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
Biden pressed on emissions goal as climate summit nears

WASHINGTON — When President Joe Biden convenes a virtual climate summit on… Continue reading

Women wearing masks wait near an advertisement ahead of the Auto Shanghai 2021 show in Shanghai on Sunday, April 18, 2021. Automakers from around the world are showcasing their latest products this week in the world's biggest market for auto vehicles. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
VW, Ford unveil SUVs at China auto show under virus controls

SHANGHAI — Volkswagen, Ford and Chinese brands unveiled new SUVs for China… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

Most Read