NY, Mass., Va. bail hearings await 9 in Russian spy case


Published: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 7:37 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 2:53 p.m.

Update: Suspect in Russian spy ring confessed

NEW YORK — Prosecutors say one of the suspects in an alleged spy ring has confessed to federal agents that he worked for Russia's intelligence service.

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This undated image taken from the Russian social networking website "Odnoklassniki", or Classmates, shows a woman journalists have identified as Anna Chapman, who appeared at a hearing Monday, June 28, 2010 in New York federal court. Chapman, along with 10 others, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general. The caption on Odnoklassniki reads "Russia, Moscow. London, Stone age." (The Associated Press)

Prosecutors made the revelation in a letter to a magistrate judge in federal court in Manhattan Thursday.

They say Juan Lazaro, a resident of Yonkers, made a lengthy post arrest statement in which he admitted that Juan Lazaro is not his true name and that he passed letters to Russian intelligence.

They also said his residence had been paid for by the Russians and that he would not violate his loyalty to the Russian intelligence service, even for the sake of his son.

Prosecutors submitted the information to underscore evidence that they said was so strong that he should deny bail for four defendants in Manhattan Thursday.

Original story

NEW YORK — Bail hearings for nine people charged in a Russian spy case were scheduled Thursday as a U.S. prosecutor said the evidence against them was growing stronger by the day.

Hearings were set for federal courts in New York, Boston and Alexandria, Va., for all but one of the 10 people arrested over the weekend by federal authorities in the United States.

Police are stepping up efforts to find an 11th person who was arrested in Cyprus but disappeared after a Cypriot judge 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 in connection with charges that he supplied money to the spy ring.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz had a relatively easy time Monday as he cited evidence steadily growing stronger in convincing a magistrate judge that the other person, Anna Chapman, should be held without bail.

Chapman, a striking 28-year-old redhead who was branded a femme fatale in media reports and whose photos were splashed across tabloids' front pages, faces a potential penalty of five years in prison if convicted.

Most of the others are charged with crimes that carry penalties of up to 25 years.

Mikhail Semenko, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, all of Arlington, Va., are set to appear Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. At the detention hearing, Buchanan will decide whether they are to remain in custody until future proceedings.

They have been charged with being foreign agents. Officials said they expect the three will eventually be transferred to New York, where the charges were filed.

Farbiarz made it clear that he believed his arguments to keep Chapman jailed before trial applied to the other defendants as well. Although charges were outlined against the defendants in two documents, the prosecutor said he expected them to be combined into one document outlining a conspiracy that stretched back to the 1990s.

"The evidence against the conspirators ... is truly, truly overwhelming," he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis. "There is evidence, video and audio surveillance, of meetings between Russian government officials and some of the co-conspirators that are sitting at this table."

He said the defendants face "extraordinary evidence, and it is the kind of evidence that any defendant looking at it has got to look at it and say, 'I'm going to be convicted here.'"

Farbiarz said he was seeking detention without bail for all the New York defendants, saying the investigation was steadily gaining evidence as search warrants are executed across the country.

Chapman's lawyer, though, has said the case against her is weak. Her mother, Irina Kushchenko, who lives in western Moscow, said she was wrongly accused of trying to help Russian intelligence collect U.S. policymaking information.

"Of course I believe that she's innocent," Kushchenko said Wednesday.

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