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Spies like us: FBI says Russian spy couple lived in Belmont apartment building

Did you notice anything weird on Capitol Hill back in 2008? The FBI says that a couple who were part of a ring of Russian spies living seemingly normal lives in America made their home on Capitol Hill as they collected secrets for the motherland:

Records indicate Zottoli and Mills may have lived in several apartments while in Seattle. In about 2008, the pair lived in the Belmont Court Republican apartments on Capitol Hill.

John Evans, manager of the apartments, remembers a “very quiet, very private” couple who were model tenants.

“I was sorry to see them go,” he said. “I am shocked to hear they would be doing anything like that [spying].”

The FBI says that part of the mission of Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills included recruitment.

You can see the 424 Belmont Ave E apartments — a.k.a. apparent Capitol Hill spy HQ — here:


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UPDATE: KING 5 talked with neighbors. “Here in Capitol Hill it’s certainly easy to get lost…”

Here is the media release from the FBI touting the arrest and the case against the alleged spies.

Ten Alleged Secret Agents Arrested in the United States
Multi-year FBI Investigation Uncovers Network in the United States Tasked with Recruiting Sources and Collecting Information for Russia

WASHINGTON—Eight individuals were arrested Sunday for allegedly carrying out long-term, “deep-cover” assignments in the United States on behalf of the Russian Federation, the Justice Department announced today. Two additional defendants were also arrested Sunday for allegedly participating in the same Russian intelligence program within the United States.

In total, 11 defendants, including the 10 arrested, are charged in two separate criminal complaints with conspiring to act as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the United States. Federal law prohibits individuals from acting as agents of foreign governments within the United States without prior notification to the U.S. Attorney General. Nine of the defendants are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The defendants known as “Richard Murphy” and “Cynthia Murphy” were arrested yesterday by FBI agents at their residence in Montclair, N.J., and are expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan today. Vicky Pelaez and the defendant known as “Juan Lazaro” were arrested yesterday at their residence in Yonkers, N.Y., and are expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan today. Anna Chapman was arrested in Manhattan yesterday and is expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan today.

The defendants known as “Michael Zottoli” and “Patricia Mills” were arrested yesterday at their residence in Arlington, Va., and are appearing in federal court in Alexandria, Va., today. Defendant Mikhail Semenko was arrested yesterday at his residence in Arlington and is appearing in federal court in Alexandria today. In addition, the defendants known as “Donald Howard Heathfield” and “Tracey Lee Ann Foley” were arrested at their residence in Boston yesterday and are appearing in federal court in Boston today. The defendant known as “Christopher R. Metsos” remains at large.

The charges are filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. Attorney General carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. All the defendants are charged with this violation. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. All the defendants except Chapman and Semenko are charged with this violation.

This case is the result of a multi-year investigation conducted by the FBI; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; and the Counterespionage Section and the Office of Intelligence within the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Farbiarz, Glen Kopp and Jason Smith of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and Trial Attorneys Kathleen Kedian and Richard Scott of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The charges and allegations contained in the criminal complaints are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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6 thoughts on “Spies like us: FBI says Russian spy couple lived in Belmont apartment building

  1. That apartment building is a mere 1/2 block from Tashkent Park — Tashkent being a former part of the USSR.
    My Russian neighbor once told me Tashkent – the city – is the armpit of Uzb: all industrial, all of the time. (Which immediately made me recall a profoundly ugly business trip to Syracuse, NY.)

  2. Yikes! They were in our building! Now I don’t know if my phone is tapped, we’re bugged, and our network infiltrated. And as for the biohazard house next door? I’m thinking its derelict condition masks a bunker filled with electronic snooping equipment.

  3. I live about half a block from Tashkent park as well, and exactly a block from this apartment. I suspect it was a coincidence; it’s not like Tashkent park would give them sentimental memories of Russia or anything. It’s like any other park except for the statue, and that is hardly a ponderous Lenin (speaking of which, if they were going for an ironic wink and nudge I’m sure they would’ve picked Fremont). It’s likely they picked CH for the same reason so many other young singles and childless couples do — easy access to downtown, bus routes, drinking and dining — and of course blending in. Seattle folks in general aren’t nosy and are unlikely to ask too many questions of neighbors doing odd things, but CH is probably the apex of that.

    That Tashkent Park is odd, btw. I remember when they did the sister city thing with Tashkent in the 80s as a sort of civic defiance to the Reagan Administration; Charlie Royer (I think) went over to break ground on the corresponding Seattle Park in that city. I wasn’t living on CH then and had totally forgotten about it by the time I’d moved to CH, but when I was in Uzbekistan in the 90s I was stunned to see a “Seattle Park” on a map of Tashkent until I remembered that. And then when I returned to Seattle I discovered I’d been living just a block from Tashkent Park all along. So it’s quite possible to end up next to the park without knowing it.

    Tashkent was a weird, weird choice as a sister city. Seattle is a maritime city on the ocean backed by forested mountains; Tashkent is a city in the middle of a continent surrounded by desert. Seattle has a temperate climate; Tashkent’s is extreme continental. Seattle is a young city founded by small groups of individuals perusing private interests without too much friction with the local tribes or oversight by government; Tashkent was an ancient city conquered by the Tsar and made a provincial capitol. We can debate how beautiful Seattle is but the word is definitely in the conversation; with Tashkent, the only debate would be about the depths of its ugliness. Really the only thing the two cities have in common is earthquakes: Tashkent was completely destroyed by one in 1966, which eliminated any charming architecture it might have once had. (Envision Renton built out of crappy soviet concrete.)