Federal prosecutors on Monday unveiled charges that read like a spy novel, announcing that two people were arrested in the Boston area as part of a national sweep for allegedly serving as secret agents of Russia's intelligence service, MyFoxBoston.com reported.
Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, said FBI agents arrested defendants known as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley at their Cambridge residence on Sunday.
They were charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government and conspiracy to commit money laundering. DiIorio-Sterling said the pair appeared briefly in Boston federal court on Monday afternoon and a detention hearing was scheduled for Thursday.
A message left after business hours with Heathfield's public defender, Catherine Byrne, was not immediately returned. A telephone number for Foley's attorney could not be immediately found.
The Justice Department said a total of 10 people were arrested. The other arrests occurred in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.
According to a copy of a complaint filed by federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York, Heathfield met with an employee of the U.S. government "with regard to nuclear weapons research."
Prosecutors also said in the complaint that Foley and Heathfield in 2004 discussed a method for sending secret messages to Russian intelligence headquarters in Moscow, MyFoxBoston reported.
During a 2006 search of the couple's townhouse, law enforcement agents found traces of deleted electronic messages on computer disks that were believed to be drafts of messages that were later sent to the Moscow headquarters using a process called "steganography," in which encrypted data can be placed in images on publicly available websites, without the data being visible to a casual user.
Authorities allege that the couple went to great lengths to communicate with intelligence officials in Moscow in secret, including using coded bursts of data sent by a radio transmitter that can be picked up by a radio receiver set at a prearranged frequency, or "radiograms," the website reported.
Federal prosecutors also allege that Foley has traveled to Russia on a fake British passport that she picked up in Paris, France, and was prepared for her by Russian intelligence services.
Investigators recovered an electronic message to her that included a reminder that she should sign the document and train herself to be able to reproduce the signature, according to the complaint.
Heathfield made contact in 2004 with an unidentified man who worked at a U.S. government nuclear research facility.
He "had conversations with him about research programs on small yield high penetration nuclear warheads recently authorized by US Congress (nuclear 'bunker-buster' warheads)," according to Heathfield's intelligence report of the encounter, the website reported.
Public records indicate that Heathfield was operating a company called Future Map Strategic Advisory Services LLC, whose registered address includes that of his home in Cambridge as well as Paris, France, and Singapore. Its website says the company's "mission is to help governments, enterprises and international organizations better prepare for the future and make better strategic decisions."
"We build and lead global expert communities in order to develop comprehensive pictures of anticipated future in various domains," according to the website. "We strive to establish Future Map as a global repository of information about anticipated events and a platform for collaboration in this emerging domain."
People in Cambridge were shocked when word spread about the arrest of two fellow residents who lived just blocks from Harvard University.
Vicky Steinitz, 71, who lives in the same townhouse cluster as the couple, said the two had been living there for many years and had two teenage sons.
"All I knew about them was when I saw them pull in and out of their driveway," she said. "They were really nice and kept to themselves."
The couple lived a block from Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. A search of Harvard's online directories did not reveal any affiliations with the university.
Heathfield and Foley claimed to be naturalized U.S. citizens who were born in Canada and had lived in the U.S. since 1999, prosecutors said.
According to the complaint, investigators found a copy of the birth certificate of a Canadian man named Donald Howard Graham Heathfield during a 2001 search of a safe deposit box in Cambridge. A Canadian newspaper published a death announcement for "Howard William Heathfield" in 2005, noting that his son, "Donald Heathfield," also was dead, investigators said in the complaint. Both the death announcement and the Canadian birth certificate suggest that Donald Howard Heathfield's mother was named "Shirley."
During the same search of the safe deposit box, investigators found photo negatives that appeared to be of Foley when she was in her 20s. On one of the negatives was the name "Tacma," which investigators said was a Soviet film company.