Exchanged Spies' Children Expected to Leave U.S. With Parents

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Most of the children of the Russian spies who are being deported from the United States as part of a spy-swap deal with Moscow are expected to leave the country and be reunited with their parents, according to a government official familiar with the case who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. The official says that some of the children may have already left the U.S.; before the spy exchange was announced on Thursday, U.S. officials had publicly indicated that some of the spy suspects had acknowledged that they had family members residing in Russia.

Four pairs of Russian deep-cover agents who had been living in America as married couples, some claiming to be U.S.-born and others immigrants to the U.S., were among 10 spy suspects who appeared before Judge Kimba Wood in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday as part of an elaborately choreographed deal worked out at a high level between the Obama administration and top officials in Moscow. All 10 formally entered guilty pleas to relatively minor charges that they conspired to act as agents of a foreign government on U.S. soil without registering with the Justice Department.

As part of the plea deals, the confessed agents were required to make public their true identities and also agreed that they would all be immediately deported from the United States. The defendants also agreed to forfeit homes and bank accounts they had maintained in the U.S., as well as never to set foot again on U.S. soil without the permission of the attorney general. So if any of their children—many or most of whom were born in the U.S. and hence are entitled to American citizenship—wanted to stay in America, they might well have no place to live.

Official paperwork related to the plea deals does not mention the couples' children, however, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, which has been handling the case, says she can't comment on what would happen to them, at least in part due to federal privacy laws. However, two officials familiar with the case say there is no bar on the children leaving the U.S. to rejoin their parents; in the case of minor children, at least, there is an expectation that they would be reunited with their parents.

According to news reports, at least three of the confessed spy couples had minor children. Perhaps the most important members of the alleged spy ring—and also the first to arrive in the U.S., in the mid-1990s— lived in Montclair, N.J., and used the names Richard and Cynthia Murphy. According to reports, the "Murphys" are parents of two young daughters, Katie and Lisa. In court on Thursday, the parents admitted their real names are Vladimir and Lydia Guryev.

A confessed spy couple who lived in Seattle and, more recently, Arlington, Va., who used the cover names Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, reportedly have two very young children. Federal documents show the suspects admitted that their real names are Mikhail Kutsik and Natalia Pereverzeva.

Another confessed spy couple who lived in the Boston area under the pseudonyms Donald Heathfield and Tracey Le Ann Foley reportedly have a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old. The couple admitted in court that their real names are Andrewy Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova.

A fourth confessed spy couple, who lived in the New York area, was made up of Spanish-language journalist Vicky Pelaez, who operated under her true name, and her college-professor husband, who operated under the name Juan Lazaro and has acknowledged to the feds that his real name was Mikhail Anatonoljevich Vasenko. They reportedly have one grown child of 38 and a teenager. Some news reports have suggested that Pelaez, who was born in Peru but has lived in the U.S. for more than two decades, has expressed a desire to remain in the U.S. But prosecutors insisted that as part of the plea deal—which involved the defendants confessing to a crime and being given a prison sentence of time served, meaning the few days they had been in detention since their arrests late last month—all the defendants would have to leave the U.S. for good.

The U.S. government confirmed in a Justice Department letter made public late Thursday that in return for the release of the four confessed spy couples and two other figures in the spy ring who used their real names—one of them being redheaded vamp Anna Chapman—the Russian government had agreed to release four Russian prisoners, at least three of whom "were convicted of treason in the form of espionage" and were serving long prison sentences. Neither the Russian nor American governments has formally identified the prisoners released by Russia, and a knowledgeable U.S. official says that a purported list published by the Russian newspaper Kommersant and republished on various Web sites (including the BBC's) contains at least one wrong name, although other names are accurate.

Additional reporting by Ross Schneiderman.