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NY lawyer: Russian spy case could be resolved soon

2010-07-08 14:07

NEW YORK - A lawyer for one of 11 people accused of spying for Russia said their case could be resolved as early as Thursday.

Ten people whose US arrests were announced by federal authorities a week ago and an 11th person, who was released on bail by a court in Cyprus and is a fugitive, were formally charged in a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday.

The indictment charged all of them with conspiring to act as secret agents and charged nine of them with conspiracy to commit money laundering. It demanded that those accused of money laundering return any assets used in the offense.

Attorney Robert Baum, who represents defendant Anna Chapman, said late Wednesday the case might be settled when she and the other nine people arrested in the United States appear for arraignment on the indictment, raising the possibility of guilty pleas to the lowest charges and deportation from the country.

"There's a good possibility that the case will be resolved at the initial court appearance tomorrow," he said Wednesday.

Chapman, a Manhattan resident branded a femme fatale in tabloid newspaper stories, and the other arrested defendants were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.

The indictment, a charging document that can be used at trial, contains far fewer details of the alleged crimes than were in two criminal complaints filed last week.

Robert J. Krakow, an attorney for defendant Juan Lazaro, said Wednesday, "Of certain events tomorrow that might occur, the fact the indictment is minimal makes perfect sense. This is a crazy situation."

Prosecutors released a copy of the indictment as federal judges in Boston and Alexandria, Va., signed orders directing that five defendants arrested in Massachusetts and Virginia be transferred to New York. All were charged in Manhattan and had to be taken there eventually.

The legal developments came amid reports that American officials were meeting with the Russian ambassador in Washington and a claim by the brother of a convicted spy in Russia that his brother has been told he will be swapped for Russians arrested in the United States.

Janice Oh, a spokeswoman for US Attorney Preet Bharara, declined to comment on speculation about a spy swap.

US District Judge Kimba Wood, who has been assigned the case, signed an order Wednesday requiring that defendant Vicky Pelaez remain detained until the judge can hear an appeal by the government of a $250,000 bail package that was approved last week by a magistrate judge.

The bail hearing was set for Friday for Pelaez, a US citizen.

John Rodriguez, a lawyer for Pelaez, said his client has met the conditions required for her release. Her bail conditions require her to remain at home, where an electronic bracelet will monitor her whereabouts.

The defendants were accused of living seemingly ordinary lives in America while they acted as unregistered agents for the Russian government, sending secret messages and carrying out orders they received from their Russian contacts.

All have remained in custody except for a man identified as Christopher R. Metsos, the fugitive.

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