Financial District Woman Accused of Being a Russian Spy
By Olivia Scheck on June 29, 2010 9:21am |
By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — A redheaded Financial District beauty was among 11 people accused of being a spy Monday after she allegedly passed information to her Russian handlers at locations around Manhattan.
Anna Chapman, 28, lived in a luxury Financial District apartment and ostensibly ran a $2 million online real-estate business. However, authorities charged that the divorced woman's real goal was to infiltrate political circles and funnel information back to Moscow, according to a complaint obtained by the Daily News and the New York Post.
Chapman allegedly engaged in clandestine communication tactics fit for a Cold War era spy flick. She was one of 10 people arrested as part of a Russian spy ring on Monday. An 11th suspect was arrested in Cyprus on Tuesday.
The Russian government has spoken out against the arrests, saying the accusations are baseless.
"These actions are unfounded and pursue unseemly goals," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "We don't understand the reasons which prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to make a public statement in the spirit of Cold War-era spy stories."
However, the Ministry did concede that some of the people arrested were Russian citizens.
Chapman is accused of sharing computer files from the Barnes & Noble on Greenwich and Warren Streets in TriBeCa. She allegedly transmitted the data over a secret wireless network to her Russian handler who was parked in a van outside, according to the complaint.
A similar incident allegedly took place at a Starbucks on 47th Street and Eighth Avenue, the Post reported. The contents of the communications were not revealed in the complaint.
Chapman's life as a spy began to unravel last week when an undercover FBI agent enlisted her to deliver a fake passport to another agent, according to the complaint.
Chapman initially agreed to the plan, but apparently became suspicious. The redheaded beauty sprinted to a Brooklyn Verizon store, where she bought a cell phone under the name Irine Kustov of 99 Fake Street, the News reported.
The FBI figured out she was on to them and immediately began rounding up the ring of suspected Russian spies, who they'd been tracking for more than a decade, according to the News.
Chapman could face up to five years in prison if convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
Although Chapman appeared demure in court on Monday, prosecutors were adamant about her espionage role, the News reported.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz singled out the curvaceous divorcé, saying "This is a Russian agent!"