(CN) – A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday charges 11 people with being secret agents for Russia and conspiring to launder money. Prosecutors say one agent met with a U.S. government employee about nuclear weapons research and talked to another spy about “a method for sending secret messages to Moscow Center.”
Members of the Russian spy ring received “thousands of dollar of cash,” including one bag of money that was buried, from Russian government officials and other agents, according to the unsealed indictment.
The agents knew the cash came from “some form of unlawful activity,” the indictment states, but they conspired to hide its origin by transferring it to ATM cards and using it to buy or rent property, among other forms of money laundering.
Defendants are Christopher R. Metsos, Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Donald Howard Heathfield, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, Mikhail Kutsik a.k.a. Michael Zottoli, Natalia Pereverzeva a.k.a. Patricia Mills, Juan Lazaro, Vicky Pelaez, Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko.
The government has appealed U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis’ decision to release Pelaez on a $250,000 bond secured by $10,000 cash, citing a “substantial risk of flight.” It also noted that one of her co-defendants, Metsos, has become a fugitive after being released by a court in Cyprus.
The criminal cases against Zottoli, Mills and Semenko were transferred from a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., to the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.