An alleged Russian spy ring was busted up and one man arrested in New York City following an extended investigation, Justice Department officials said.
In a Cold War-like plot that includes some gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight elements, U.S. officials say Evgeny Buryakov operated under “non-official cover.” He entered and remained in the United States as a private citizen, posing as an employee in the Manhattan office of a Russian bank.
The 39-year-old Buryakov was taken into custody. The other two men charged, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, are not in the United States.
According to prosecutors, Sporyshev and Podobnyy are intelligence officers who posed as official representatives of Russia; Sporyshev as a trade representative of the Russian Federation and Podobnyy as an attaché to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. All three men, the FBI says, worked for “Department ER,” which focuses on economic intelligence.
According to the complaint, the men at locations “in and around Manhattan and the Bronx” and were eavesdropped upon while communicating “within a secure office in Manhattan used by SVR agents to send and receive intelligence reports and assignments from Moscow.”
“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 26-page complaint, the FBI conducted physical or electronic surveillance of Buryakov and Sporyshev engaging in over 48 brief meetings, several of which involved Buryakov passing a bag, magazine or slip of paper to Sporyshev. The FBI planted “microphone-type listening devices” and well as wiretaps and “video cameras in public location,” according to the complaint.
“In numerous recorded communications,” the Justice Department reported, “Sporyshev and Podobnyy discussed their attempts to recruit U.S. residents, including several individuals employed by major companies, and several young women with ties to a major university located in New York City as intelligence sources.”
Two women told the FBI that Podobnyy “tried to ingratiate himself and gain information from each of them.” Investigators also tape-recorded the two men commiserating about the difficulties in cultivating female sources.
“And in order to be close you either need to (expletive) them or use other levers to influence them to execute my requests,” Sporyshev is recorded as saying. “So when you tell me about girls, in my experience, it' s very rare that something workable will come of it.”
Buryakov is charged with acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General, and Sporyshev and Podobnyy are charged with aiding and abetting that offense.