Alleged Russian spy confesses: U.S. prosecutors
A suspect in an alleged spy ring has confessed to federal agents that he worked for Russia's intelligence service, federal prosecutors in the U.S. said Thursday.
The revelation came on a day when several defendants in the case made 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 arrest Sunday 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 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, Peruvian-born journalist Vicky Pelaez, had passed letters to the "Service" on his behalf.
Prosecutors in New York argued that Pelaez and two other defendants, Cynthia and Richard Murphy, should be held without bail because U.S.-based Russian agents were eager to help them flee the country.
Ronald L. Ellis, a U.S. magistrate judge, ruled the Murphys should remain in custody because it was unclear who they were and there was no other way to guarantee they wouldn't flee.
However, Ellis set bail of $250,000 US for Pelaez, saying she did not appear to be trained as a spy. The judge required electronic monitoring and home detention and said Pelaez would not be freed before Tuesday, giving prosecutors time to appeal.
Two other alleged spies, Donald Heathfield and his wife, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, of Cambridge, Mass., 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.
Disappeared on bail
A magistrate judge in Alexandria, Va., postponed a hearing for three other people accused of being foreign agents, Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko. The hearing was rescheduled for Friday.
Meanwhile, police searched airports, ports and yacht marinas on Thursday, trying to find an 11th person, Christopher Metsos, who was arrested in Cyprus but disappeared after a judge there freed him on $32,500 bail.
In all, 11 people — including some purported to be Canadians — were arrested last weekend in the U.S. for allegedly working on "deep cover" assignments for Russia, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Russia's Foreign Ministry acknowledged that some of those arrested were Russian citizens but insisted they did nothing to hurt U.S. interests.