NEW YORK (AP)
A shadowy money man for a Russian spy ring whose members were assigned a decade or more ago to infiltrate American society was captured overseas, authorities said Tuesday, becoming the last of 11 arrests made over three days in one of the largest such busts in recent years.
Russian officials angrily denounced the arrests as "Cold War-era spy stories," but officials there and at the White House insisted they would do little or nothing to tear recently mending relations between the two nations.
The FBI moved on the bust because one of the suspects was scheduled to leave the country, the Justice Department said.
The last suspect, using the name Christopher Metsos and purporting to be a Canadian citizen, was arrested at the Larnaca airport in Cyprus while trying to fly to Budapest, Hungary, police in the Mediterranean island nation said. He was later released on bail.
Metsos, 54, was among those named in complaints unsealed Monday in federal court in Manhattan. Authorities in Cyprus said he will remain there for one month until extradition proceedings begin.
Most of the suspects were accused of using fake names and claims of U.S. citizenship while really being Russian. It was unclear how and where they were recruited, but court papers say the operation goes back as far as the 1990s.
Intelligence on President Barack Obama's foreign policy, particularly toward Russia, appears to have been their top priority, according to prosecutors, who charged each of the 10 arrested in the U.S. with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general.
The 38-year-old son of one of the arrested couples, Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro, said Tuesday outside their home in Yonkers that he didn't believe the allegations.
"This looks like an Alfred Hitchcock movie with all this stuff from the 1960s. This is preposterous," Waldomar Mariscal said. Of the charges, he said, "They're all inflated little pieces in the mosaic of unbelievable things."
Russia's foreign ministry acknowledged Tuesday that those arrested included Russian citizens but insisted they did nothing to hurt U.S. interests.
The ministry earlier angrily denounced the arrests as an unjustified throwback to the Cold War.