Five people accused of being Russian spies were ordered transferred to New York by judges in Massachusetts and Virginia amid reports the U.S. and Russia are in talks over a prisoner swap.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal in Boston issued the order today after Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley asked to be transferred.
Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills, and Mikhail Semenko were ordered transferred today by Magistrate Judge Thomas Jones in Alexandria, Virginia. They asked last week to keep their cases in Virginia. The judge canceled a hearing on whether there is sufficient legal cause to keep them detained.
The Associated Press and the Russian news agency Ria Novosti reported today that the U.S. and Russia are working on an exchange for the five involving an imprisoned nuclear researcher. The AP cited the brother of the researcher as its source.
The Russian prisoner is Igor Sutyagin, sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2004 for disclosing secrets to the U.S., Ria Novosti said. Sutyagin, an arms control and nuclear weapons specialists, may be traded for one of those being held in the U.S., the news agency said, citing his lawyer.
Zottoli and Mills have admitted that they are Russians and were using false names, U.S. prosecutors said in court last week.
Arrests in U.S.
Zottoli, Mills and Semenko were arrested June 27 at their Arlington, Virginia, residences, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys in Boston last week said they would challenge the government’s claims about their clients’ identities. While defense attorney Peter Krupp said his client could be referred to as Donald Heathfield, a lawyer for the woman the government calls Tracey Lee Ann Foley asked that she be known as “Defendant No. 5.”
The Virginia cases are USA v. Mills, 10-405, and USA v. Semenko, 10-408, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria). The Boston case is U.S. v. Defendant No. 4, 10-mj-256, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).