`Deep Cover' Spies Worked Day Jobs to Glean Data for Russia
Three of the accused “deep-cover” Russian spies may have had jobs that put them in contact with opinion makers, corporate executives or aspiring technology industry workers.
Donald Heathfield lived in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment where he ran a management consulting company called Future Map. It claimed to have offices in Paris and Singapore, according to public databases and Future Map’s website. Vicky Pelaez wrote columns for El Diario La Prensa, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in New York. Anna Chapman posted an online ad seeking “bright graduates” for an Internet startup.
Leon Aron, resident scholar and director of Russian studies at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said he wasn’t surprised by the disclosure of the alleged “sleepers” or the jobs they took.
“This is a very soft, ill-defined, broad-netted search not for hard facts intelligence but to divine the internal workings of the American political system,” he said yesterday in a phone interview.
The three were among 10 people arrested June 28 who prosecutors said were part of a Russian spy ring that tried to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles, according to two criminal complaints by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An 11th suspect was arrested in Cyprus yesterday by local police.
Cyprus police will issue an arrest warrant for that suspect, Robert Christopher Metsos, after he failed to appear today for a scheduled meeting with police while on bail, according to spokesman Michalis Katsounotos.
The FBI said the people used false identities, coded communications, secret payments and clandestine movements to disguise their efforts to pass data to Russia and recruit sources. Some of the accused lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years, with the goal of becoming “Americanized” and passing intelligence back to Russia, according to the complaints.
“In addition to seeing how policy is made, it appears that they were also looking at how technology was made,” Aron said. “The Soviet Union and then Russia were always fascinated by why the U.S. constantly undergoes these explosions of new technologies and new knowledge.”
Court documents don’t identify the jobs of the suspects, who lived near New York City, Boston and Washington. Internet searches show that Heathfield, Pelaez and Chapman each worked in jobs that may have exposed them to potential sources of information.
Heathfield was chief executive officer of Future Map. The company’s website says its goal is “developing strategic proactivity.”
“Our mission is to help governments, enterprises and international organizations better prepare for the future,” according to the website. “We strive to establish Future Map as a global repository of information about anticipated events.”
Calls to Future Map’s offices in Paris and Cambridge went unanswered. A man who answered the phone at the company’s Singapore headquarters said he was “stunned” by the news.
“I am extremely surprised” the man said, declining to provide his name. “I really don’t know what to make of it.”
According to the complaint, Heathfield and his wife, Tracey Foley, were directed by their controllers in Moscow to focus on turnover at the Central Intelligence Agency and the 2008 presidential election.
From his base near Harvard Square, Heathfield made contact with a former high-ranking U.S. government national security official, according to the complaint. In 2004, he met with an employee of the U.S. government “with regard to nuclear weapons research.”
Heathfield got a master’s degree in public administration in 2000 from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, said school spokesman Jake Ackman.
Heathfield’s LinkedIn page says Future Map “enables governments and businesses to develop comprehensive preparedness systems and build a culture of strategic pro-activity and anticipatory leadership.”
From May 2000 to May 2006, Heathfield was also a partner at Global Partners Inc., a “global corporate business development and executive education consultancy,” according to the page on the business networking website.
His groups on his LinkedIn page include the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, Business Intelligence Group and Strategic Business and Competitive Intelligence.
Pelaez wrote columns for El Diario, according to Ellen Shaffren, who lives in Yonkers, New York, across the street from Pelaez and her husband, Juan Lazaro, who was also arrested. Scott Mautner, the general counsel of Los Angeles-based ImpreMedia LLC, El Diario’s parent, declined to comment.
An Internet search reveals columns by Pelaez assailing the U.S. prison industry as practicing “slavery” and commenting on Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.
According to the complaint, Pelaez is a U.S. citizen born in Peru. The complaint cites instances in which she and Lazaro received tens of thousands of dollars in cash from contacts they met in an unidentified South American country while gathering information to send back to “Moscow Center,” the headquarters for Russian intelligence.
In 2002, Lazaro complained that Moscow Center was dismissive of his information because he didn’t identify his sources, according to the FBI.
“Put down any politician here,” Pelaez told him, according to the complaint.
‘Prominent New York-Based Financier’
Among those arrested were Cynthia and Richard Murphy of Montclair, New Jersey. The FBI said Cynthia Murphy had several work-related meetings with a “prominent New York-based financier” whose name is omitted from the arrest complaint. Superiors in Moscow instructed Murphy to work on the relationship and try to obtain foreign policy rumors and invitations to political events, according to the complaint.
Neighbors in Montclair said Richard Murphy appeared to be a stay-at-home dad with their two small children, and his wife got a graduate degree from Columbia University. A spokeswoman for Columbia Business School, Jane Trombley, said in an e-mail that Cynthia A. Murphy got a master’s of business administration last month.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Alan Patricof, a confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton and a Democratic fundraiser, said he believed himself to be the financier referred to in the complaint.
In an e-mailed statement, Patricof said Cynthia Murphy worked at Morea Financial Group, a New York firm he hired 2 1/2 years ago to handle his personal bookkeeping, bill paying, accounting and tax services.
Patricof, the founder and managing partner of Greycroft LLC, said he met Murphy “a limited number of times” and spoke with her “frequently” on the phone about his personal finances.
“We never -- not once -- discussed any matter other than my finances and certainly she never inquired about, nor did we ever discuss, any matters relating to politics, the government or world affairs,” he said. “Since I understand she was employed by Morea approximately 10 years before I became a client, I highly doubt that I could have been an intended target by her.”
Murphy has been a certified financial planner since 2005, according to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.
Calls for comment to Barbara Morea, president of Morea Financial Services, weren’t immediately returned.
Unlike nine others arrested on June 28, Chapman, 28, lived under her real name in New York City, according to the complaint. It cites her surreptitious communications through a private wireless network with Russian government officials, and says she agreed last weekend to deliver a fraudulent passport to a person she believed was an accomplice.
Chapman is listed in an online ad as the contact for a lower Manhattan company called PropertyFinder. The ad says an “Internet start-up” was seeking “ambitious” interns. A call to PropertyFinder wasn’t answered.
“This position is ideal for those that love start-ups and looking to create something that gives value, know how to, not scared to get in touch with clients, hardworking and prepared to do what it takes to succeed in New York City!” the ad said in fractured English.
Chapman’s LinkedIn page said she had been CEO of PropertyFinder since October 2006.
“Love launching innovative high-tech start-ups and building passionate teams to bring value into market!,” she wrote.
It said she is the founder of Domdot.ru, which it described as a “search engine in real estate for Russian speaking people.”
She wrote: “I have been involved in running all aspects of business, setting strategy for development, international expansion, people management, Investors reporting.”
Russian is Chapman’s native language, while she is fluent in English, conversational in German and has basic command of French, according to her LinkedIn page.
She said she worked at Barclays Plc in London from August 2004 to July 2005 in the position of “slave.” Barclays spokeswoman Monique Wise said bank records show she worked in the small business section of Barclays retail bank.
Chapman also said she worked for two hedge funds and a private aviation firm, selling jets to companies and individuals in Russia and engaging in “high-end client interaction targeting senior executives and key decision makers.”
At the top of the online ad for PropertyFinder is a listing for two other jobs. One of them is for internships with the CIA.
Cash in a Newspaper
Another suspect who operated under his true name was Mikhail Semenko, according to his FBI arrest complaint. Semenko met on June 26 in Washington with an FBI undercover agent who passed him $5,000 in cash wrapped in a newspaper that he was supposed to drop under a bridge.
Semenko worked as a travel specialist at Travel All Russia LLC, according to his LinkedIn page. In 2008, he got dual master’s degrees in Asian studies as well as diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, according to spokeswoman Jill Matthews.
Semenko is fluent in Russian, Chinese, English and Spanish, according to his LinkedIn page.
The agents would be useful for “certain kinds of intelligence gathering,” said Kevin Ryan, executive director for research at the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
“If you wanted to get yourself into the middle of a political party or company and work your way to the highest levels over time, then you could report back about what they’re thinking inside and what’s their intent,” Ryan said. “Those are the kinds of things that are hard to pick up just from reading about it in the press.”
The cases are U.S. v. Metsos; U.S. v. Chapman, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).