FBI Announces Charges in Alleged Russian Spy Ring
Three men were charged with spying and recruiting informants for information on U.S. economic and trade activity. By Matt Berman and Lauren Fox
A man in the Bronx was arrested Monday after being charged by the United States for being a covert agent for the Russian government. The complaint charged three people, but only one, Evgeny Buryakov, still lives in the U.S.
"We will use every tool at our disposal to identify and hold accountable foreign agents operating inside this country – no matter how deep their cover," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
According to the complaint, Buryakov "willfully and knowingly, would and did act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government, specifically the Russian Federation, and as an agent of foreign officials, specifically intelligence agents working in New York City for the Russian Federation's Foreign Intelligence Service (the 'SVR')," without informing the U.S. government, as required.
The complaint states that Buryakov, who worked as a trade representative for the Russian Federation in New York, met with one other defendant, Igor Sporyshev, between March 2012 and September 2014 "on dozens of occasions at locations in and around Manhattan and the Bronx, for the purpose of exchanging information related to their work as intelligence officers operating within the United States at the direction of the Russian SVR."
Often they would meet outdoors to decrease the chances of being watched. Before meeting, they would call one another to discuss trading an innocuous item such as a "hat," "tickets," "umbrella" or a "book."
The third defendant, Victor Podobnyy, who worked as an aide to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, is accused of meeting with Sporyshev on May 23, 2013 to discuss transmitting Buryakov's intelligence from "'confidential talks' in which he participated under the cover of his position as a banker" back to SVR.
Podobnyy and Sporyshev also tried to recurit others to join them in their intelligence efforts. They were looking specifically to young women at a prominent New York university as well as business professionals at major U.S. companies.
According to the complaint, Podobnyy' recruitment tactics included "cheating, promising favors, and then discarding" sources as soon as he got what he wanted.
While spies, the defendants often discussed how mundane their positions were. On one occasion, Podobnyy told Sporyshev that spying was nothing like "movies about James Bond" and at the very least he had expected he was going to be able to 'pretend to be someone else."
"Following our previous prosecution with the FBI of Russian spies, who were expelled from the United States in 2010 when their plan to infiltrate upper levels of U.S. business and government was revealed, the arrest of Evgeny Buryakov and the charges against him and his co-defendants make clear that – more than two decades after the presumptive end of the Cold War – Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst under cover of secrecy," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.