Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lauren Frayer Fatale Conjures Bond Girl

Fatale' Conjures Bond Girl

Lauren Frayer

(June 29) -- A 28-year-old divorcee with a swanky New York address and Russian roots is emerging as a real-life Bond girl in what the FBI describes as a more than decade-long spy ring allied to Moscow.

Anna Chapman, who reportedly has a master's degree in economics and runs her own $2 million online real estate business, is one of 10 alleged Russian spies who appeared in federal court Monday. The FBI says she's part of a long-term, deep-cover espionage network trying to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles and collect information for Moscow.

Her Facebook page's address contains the more Russian first name "Anya" instead of the Americanized "Anna" and is adorned with glamorous, suggestive self-portraits. Many of them are being republished today in the tabloids, with captions calling Chapman a "femme fatale" with a "Victoria's Secret body."

Whitehotpix / ZUMA Press
Anna Chapman, here in a photo posted to her Facebook account, is accused of being a spy for Moscow.

One of her status updates from January says, "When you speak the truth, you don't have to remember it." Another says, "My new Mac has been the buy of the year. ... Love it!"

That's likely the same Macintosh laptop referenced in an 18-page court document unsealed Monday, in which the FBI alleges that Chapman sat in a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and sent secret information to Russian agents in a van passing by outside, using a short-range wireless network.

Every Wednesday, the document alleges, Chapman has been passing such information to her handlers in scenes reminiscent of a James Bond film. It also outlines a meeting Chapman had last weekend with someone whom she allegedly believed was a Russian agent working at the country's consulate in New York -- but who really was an undercover FBI agent.

Pretending to be one of her handlers, the FBI agent instructed Chapman on how to transfer a fake passport to another female spy, authorities said. She was to hold a magazine in a certain way so the other agent would recognize her. When the woman asked her, "Excuse me, but haven't we met in California last summer?" Chapman was to respond in coded language, "No, I think it was the Hamptons."

But Chapman never made the rendezvous, and it's unclear whether that's because she may have become suspicious of the undercover U.S. agent. She was arrested a day later. An Obama administration official told The New York Times that the FBI decided to move in and arrest the suspects quickly, fearing they might try to flee the country.

The court document also says Chapman bought a cell phone under a false name, Irine Kutsov, with the address "99 Fake Street," which she used to make calls to Russia that couldn't be traced to her own name. FBI agents trailing her found the phone contract and charger in a garbage bin, it said.

Chapman is charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

At her hearing in federal court Monday, Chapman's lawyer, Robert Baum, argued that allegations against his client were exaggerated and said she deserved to be released on bail. "This is not a case that raises issues of security of the United States," he said, according to several news agencies.

But the bail request was denied after federal prosecutor Michael Farbiarz called Chapman a highly trained "Russian agent" and "practiced deceiver" and could try to flee the country if released even temporarily.

Meanwhile, one of Chapman's Facebook friends has posted a story about her arrest on her profile. There's no word on whether she's had Facebook access behind bars.

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