Russkies: Busted

A bag of money buried in a field in Sullivan County led to the arrest of 10 people on charges of -- we kid you not, readers -- spying for Russia. (Another suspect is still at large.) The New York Times's Charlie Savage reports:

Criminal complaints filed in federal court on Monday read like a thriller novel: Secret Russian agents were assigned to live as married couples in the United States, even having children who were apparently unaware of their parents’ true identities. A spy swapped identical bags with a Russian official as they brushed past each other in a train station stairwell. Messages were written with invisible ink, hidden in the data of digital pictures, and encoded in messages sent over shortwave radio.

The Times Herald-Record, whose story relies heavily on the New York Times account quoted above, claims the bust was traced, in part, to a bag of cash buried in a field in Wurtsboro:

The complaints state that in 2004, one of the defendants, known as Christopher R. Metsos, received money from a Russian government official in New York City, then drove up to Wurtsboro and buried a portion of the money in a field. In 2006, two co-defendants, known as Patricia Mills and Christopher Zottoli, traveled to the New York area from Seattle, drove up to Wurtsboro and dug up the money. Law enforcement had installed a GPS device in the car Metsos used to drive to Wurtsboro and captured Mills and Zottoli digging up the money on video surveillance.

The New York Times also got their hands on an incredible encoded secret-message exchange between one of the couples and their Russian handlers, arguing over whether the alleged spies would be allowed to buy their own house in New Jersey.

The agents eventually dropped the argument, writing: “We are under the impression that C. views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of our mission here. We’d like to assure you that we do remember what it is. From our perspective, purchase of the house was solely a natural progression of our prolonged stay here. It was a convenient way to solve the housing issue, plus to ‘do as the Romans do’ in a society that values home ownership.”

Nice to see Ivan espousing good old-fashioned American values.