Businesswoman, Former Moscow Student Is One of Suspects
- By Greta Mavica
- Jun. 30 2010 00:00
- Last edited 22:46
One of the 11 people accused of working as Russian agents in the United States is a successful businesswoman who founded a prosperous real estate agency while still a student at the Peoples' Friendship University in Moscow.
The suspect, Anna Chapman, 28, went to New York police with a fake passport acquired from FBI agents in a sting operation instead of passing it to the intended party, possibly forcing the FBI to carrying out 10 arrests on Sunday to avoid its years-long surveillance operation from being blown.
Chapman's lawyer, Robert Baum, said in a U.S. court on Monday that his client's decision to go to the police proved her innocence.
But prosecutors called her a "highly trained agent" who is "a practiced deceiver."
Chapman also was accused in court of making contact with an unidentified Russian government official via a closed wireless network once a week.
"If we arrested and charged criminal acts against everyone who communicates with a government official by computer, we wouldn't have room enough in the jails," Baum said, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Chapman and the others were all ordered to remain in custody. She pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and will appear in court Thursday.
Another suspect, Mikhail Semenko, received the same request as Chapman to pass along a fake passport and fulfilled the mission, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Chapman graduated from Peoples' Friendship University, where she studied finance, in 2005, Lifenews.ru reported. While still a student, she founded an online realty agency worth $2 million, the New York Daily News said.
Chapman worked in London after graduation and moved to the United States in February to open another real estate agency. She divorced her British husband after moving to the United States, Lifenews.ru reported.
A photo of Chapman on her Facebook page depicts an attractive brunette with long, flowing hair.
“I can't believe Anna was accused of being a spy,” a representative of the Moscow Club of Young Entrepreneurs, of which Chapman was a member, told Lifenews.ru. "She is a natural businesswoman and devoted all her time to her business."