Children of accused face uncertain future
The men and women arrested for allegedly operating a Russian espionage ring inside the United States face long prison terms if they are convicted. But the future for their children — seven American-born offspring born to four couples, most of them allegedly Russian citizens — lacks even that degree of definition.
What will become of the grade-school sisters in Montclair, N.J., one of whom was at a friend’s birthday party Sunday as FBI agents hauled away her parents?
Or the 1- and 3-year-old siblings in Arlington, Va., whom agents briefly left with county officials after their parents were apprehended? Or the brothers in Cambridge, Mass., whom neighbors saw last week helping their parents move into a new home?
Now the brothers’ parents, known as Donald Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley, are in federal custody, and the children — one an adult, the other a teenager, according to neighbors — are home alone. “I’m waiting for an important call. Please don’t call back,” one brother, Tim Heathfield, said Wednesday before hanging up.
Justice Department officials, citing privacy laws, declined to comment on what steps they have taken to care for the children of the espionage suspects. However, Dean Boyd, a Justice spokesman, said children of defendants in federal cases are generally placed in care of state child protection agencies. “We recognize the importance of proper care for the children in this case,” he said.
New York A prosecutor warned Thursday that a powerful and sophisticated network of U.S.-based Russian agents were eager to help defendants in an alleged spy ring flee the country on bail. U.S. authorities also said one defendant confessed that he worked for Russia’s intelligence service and others had large amounts of cash.
“There are a lot of Russian government officials in the United States who are actively assisting this conspiracy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis as he argued that those arrested last weekend should remain held without bail.
Ellis ruled that two defendants, Cynthia and Richard Murphy, should remain in custody because there was no other way to guarantee they would not flee since it was unclear who they were. But he set bail of $250,000 for prominent Spanish-language journalist Vicky Pelaez, a U.S. citizen born in Peru, saying she did not appear to be trained as a spy. The judge required electronic monitoring and home detention and said she would not be freed before Tuesday, giving prosecutors time to appeal.
Ellis ruled after Farbiarz said the evidence against the defendants continued to mount and the case was solid.
“Judge, this is a case where the evidence is extraordinarily strong. Prosecutors don’t get cases like this very often,” he said.
The decision to set bail for one defendant came as police on the island nation of Cyprus searched airports, ports and yacht marinas to find a man who had been going by the name Christopher Metsos, who disappeared after a judge there freed him on $32,500 bail. Metsos failed to show up Wednesday for a required meeting with police. He was charged by U.S. authorities with supplying funds to the other members of the ring.
Authorities also examined surveillance video from crossing points on the war-divided island, fearing the suspect might have slipped into the breakaway north, a diplomatic no-man’s-land that’s recognized only by Turkey and has no extradition treaties.
“This is a case that in the course of less than a week has gotten much, much better,” Farbiarz said, citing $80,000 in new, hundred dollar bills found in the safe-deposit box of two defendants who had been living in Montclair, N.J.
Farbiarz said a criminal complaint filed against the defendants was “relatively long but the complaint is the tip of an iceberg.”
The prosecutor said new evidence included the discovery of multiple cellular phones and multiple currencies in a safe deposit box and other “tools of the trade when they’re in this business.”
He said the spy ring consisted of people who for decades had worked to Americanize themselves while engaging in secret global travel with false passports, secret code words, fake names, invisible ink, encrypted radio and techniques so sophisticated that prosecutors chose not to describe them in court papers.
If freed, Farbiarz warned, the defendants would certainly flee, using co-conspirators in the United States to disappear and the tentacles of “one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world.”
Farbiarz said the defendants have a “powerful sophisticated network they can call upon in the United States.”
The prosecutor’s claims were countered by lawyers for several defendants who said that their clients, accused of going undercover in American cities and suburbs, were harmless and should be released on bail.
“It’s all hyperbole, your honor,” attorney Donna Newman said on behalf of Richard Murphy.
She said Murphy was a stay-at-home-dad who did the chores while his wife Cynthia earned a good living.
Farbiarz said the couple were proof that the defendants carried out “deception and lies at a systematic level.”