June 29, 2010

Russian spies arrested in DC

By ROBY CHAVEZ/myfoxdc WASHINGTON - FBI agents arrested 10 people on charges that they spent years in the United States as spies for Russia, taking on fake identities and making connections to think tanks and government officials. Court documents indicated they were masters at secret clandestine meetings, invisible writing and foreign languages.


Criminal Complaint #1

Criminal Complaint #2

Two of people arrested, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, lived in Arlington. They both lived in a no-frills apartment complex on S. Joyce Street as husband and wife. A third person, Mikhail Semenko, was also arrested at his residence in Arlington. Semenko is fluent in Russian, English, Mandarin and Spanish. He worked at the Travel All Russia travel agency in Arlington. The others lived what appeared to be normal lives in Yonkers, New York and New Jersey. The busted spy ring has brought international intrigue to the Washington suburbs. Neighbors said Zottoli and Mills had children and were shocked to hear spies may be living among them in the suburbs.

"I guess if I was a spy, I’d want to live here too. You're not in the middle of D.C. You're away from everyone else. You can blend in better. So, why not?" said Will Lewis.

In all, 10 people from the group dubbed "Illegals" were arrested for being part of a “deep cover” Russian spy ring. With names like Murphy, Heathfield, Foley and Mills, their mission was to become as "Americanized" as possible. The government says they were anything but that, except with American birth certificates. However, they were allegedly receiving extensive training by the Russian government. In Arlington, many are intrigued that the spy ring operated in their backyard.

"It's surprising to hear it's going on in Arlington. I walk by people in this building all the time. It's disconcerting to know there are actual Russian spies," said Kevin Teague.

All of this coming a week after where President Obama was all smiles in Arlington with the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the so-called “Burger Diplomacy.” But just blocks away, according to court documents, lived Mills and Zottoli. Both are accused of picking up money sent by the Russian government that was buried in New York's Central Park. According to the documents, all of the spying was caught on video and listening devices. One intercepted message from Moscow's spy center read, "you were sent to USA for long term service trip ... To search and develop ties in policymaking circles in U.S. and send intels (intelligence reports) To C (center)." Some wonder what it will do to U.S. and Russian relations after this warm moment between the two leaders.

"It’s unfathomable. I know it happens. It's just unconscionable," said Lee Plaza.

Court documents indicate some of the alleged spies met with a former high ranking national security official, a person working on bunker-buster nuclear warheads and a major fundraiser for an unnamed political party. Officials said the Russian network appears to have accomplished little despite living in this country for up to two decades. SOURCE: FOX DC

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