If I say “couple of spies”, you answer me… Mr & Mrs Smith! So ok, yes, you are right. Besides being fucking handsome, they’re talented, cunning and super stylish. OK ! Only… Bah… They don’t exist, what! It’s fictitious. Yeah, I know, it sucks, but that’s the way it is. To console you a little, I invite you to discover couples of spies who REALLY existed. I’m warning you, if I can talk to you about it, it’s because they’ve been unmasked, and so… Bah… That doesn’t necessarily end up super well for them.
1. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe
Well, already, the image is quite disturbing. Am I the only one who thinks it looks like the same person in both photos?? There are a few differences, but the features are still pretty darn similar, aren’t they? Chelouuuu.
This observation made, we can begin. This couple has nothing to worry about at first sight: they live in a somewhat sad house in the suburbs of Annapolis, and are parents of two young teenagers. So far, nothing transcendent, right? In April 2020, the FBI is informed that an individual seeks to communicate secret documents from the United States Navy to a foreign power (it is kept secret.) This individual, you will have understood it: it is Jonathan, then nuclear engineer of… the US Navy. Hey, hey, hey… A few months later, he enters into correspondence with an infiltrator from the federal office, pretending to be an agent of the foreign nation in question. By encrypted messaging, the engineer offers to sell the ” parameters and performance characteristics of reactors of nuclear-powered warships“. In exchange for an SD card, hidden in a peanut butter sandwich, the FBI paid the couple $100,000 in cryptocurrency to gain their trust and establish their cover. When dropping off the package, the man is arrested. Accused of “espionage and conspiracy to communicate restricted data” (nice, short and concise as a ground for indictment, right?), he faces between 12 and 18 years in prison. He pleaded guilty on February 14, 2022. His wife will be tried for complicity. Such is taken who thought he was taking.
2. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
Surely THE most famous spy couple. Ethel and Julius are a couple of communist New Yorkers at the time of the Second World War. Even if the image of a couple of agents, sporting the classy style of the 1940s makes you dream, the reality is much less nice… Betrayed by Ethel’s brother, accused of having revealed secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Vice-Consul in New York, they were sentenced to death and ended their lives in the electric chair on June 19, 1953, leaving behind two orphans aged 6 and 10. HORRIBLE. The affair shook the world, the accused proclaimed their innocence until the end, the Communists, the liberals on the right and on the left supported them, personalities like Mauriac or Pope Pius XII defended them. Finally, when the American and Soviet archives are opened in the 1990s, their guilt is proven. They communicated with the Soviets as early as 1942, under the code names of “Liberal” and “Antenne”, but that in no way excuses the fact that they were condemned to death.
3. Cynthia and Richard Murphy (Vladimir and Lydia Gurvey)
Vladimir and Lydia Gurvey are a married couple, who moved to the USA in 1990 and adopted the names “Richard and Cynthia Murphy”. They both have college degrees and jobs. They live in a small, modern, peach-colored house in New Jersey with their two daughters: Kate and Lisa. A little normal life of Mr and Mrs Everybody, in short! Only difference: Richard and Cynthia are Russian spies, who work in the greatest illegality (that is to say, without official cover, neither at the embassy nor in any institution). Their mission: to become sufficiently ‘Americanized’ to be able to gather information on the United States” and “infiltrate political circles”. They were unmasked in 2010. On Sunday June 27, their house was devastated by the police. The family leaves under FBI escort, and never returns.
Does this story ring a bell? It’s normal, this couple is one of those who inspired the series “The Americans”… Same observation for the following 3 couples.
4. Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley (Andrey Bezrukov and Yelena Vavilove)
New couple of Russian spies, almost similar scenario… Strange, you say?? Well, not really! After a year of investigation, the FBI identifies and brings down 10 Russian spies infiltrated in the USA, including 4 couples. After Cynthia and Richard, it was Donald and Tracey’s turn to see their lives changed on June 27, 2010. That day, their eldest (Tim) celebrated his 20th birthday. To mark the occasion, the whole little family goes to the restaurant, a stone’s throw from their home. Settled in the United States for 10 years, the Heathfield-Foleys have everything of the classic American family and no one suspects a thing. Not even their children. So, when they return home after a family night out, they don’t really expect to see their parents arrested, handcuffed and taken away by dozens of FBI agents. Yet this is the scene unfolding before their eyes. It must still give you a hell of a kick to discover like that, on your birthday, that your parents are in fact Russian agents, made available to the foreign secret services (SVR) after the fall of the USSR. WORST, their names are actually Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. Their Canadian names were actually borrowed from young children, who died shortly after birth. CLOUDY.
5. Mikhail Kutsik and Nataliya Pereverzeva (“Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills”)
Couple 3/4 of the Russian spies unmasked by the “Illegal Program”. Michael arrived in the USA in 2001, Patricia in 2003, according to the FBI. They settled in Seattle, and studied business at the University of Washington Bothell. Together, they have two children and also lead a quiet little life. Like the others, they were Russian spies (hihihi) and LIKE THE OTHERS, their mission ended on June 27, 2010, when the FBI calmed them down. Finally, and still LIKE THE OTHERS, they pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign country”. Half-acknowledged fault… Oh no. The USA really does not laugh with that!
6. Mikhail Anatolyevich Vasenkov (Juan Lazaro) and Vicky Peláez
And so, the last ones in this rather phew story of Russian spies discovered by the FBI. I’m not redoing the script for you, you have it! June 27, 2010 = patatra, grilled cover, etc etc. On the other hand, the rather crazy point of this story is that Vicky does not have a blaze. EVEN MORE, before marrying Juan (who stole the name of a dead baby), Vicky was a journalist on Peruvian television! She was also found as a columnist for El Diario La Prensa in New York. I don’t know about you, but for once, I find it crazy.
7. Günter and Christel Guillaume
The East German spies of the stasi (GDR). In 1974, in the middle of the Cold War, they caused one of the biggest spy scandals of the post-war period. And for good reason ! Günter is none other than… the personal adviser to German Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt (FRG). When it is learned that Guillaume is actually a spy for the GDR, the chancellor resigns. Christel and Günter were arrested on April 24, 1974, and sentenced to thirteen and eight years in prison. A sentence shortened in 1981, by an exchange of spies between the FRG and the GDR.
8. Morris and Lona Cohen (Peter and Helen Kroger)
The two lovebirds met in the 1930s, when they both joined the Communist Party of the USA. Morris recruited Lona for Soviet spy service in 1939, and married her in 1941. When World War II broke out, Morris went to the front. Lona took the opportunity to weave a whole network of technicians and engineers working for the armaments, ammunition or aviation factories in the New York region. At the end of the war, they were forgotten and did not resurface until 1954, under the name of the “Kroger spouses”, in London. Settled in a quiet little street in the city, they are known as sellers of old books and antiques. At this time, Morris also became responsible for the KGB branch in Great Britain. They were finally arrested in 1961, then sentenced to 21 years in prison. In 1969, they were finally exchanged and settled in Moscow. They receive the Order of the Red Banner as well as the Order of Friendship of Peoples. Post mortem, they are crowned Heroes of Russia by order of President Yeltsin. In 1998, their little faces were even printed on Russian stamps! Style.
9. Goar and Gevork Vartanyan
A little-known couple, and yet… They would have all simply foiled a Nazi assassination plot and changed the course of history! 1943, Tehran conference. On site: Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Stalin, that is, the three great Allied leaders. At the same time: Operation “Long Jump” is launched by a Nazi group to assassinate the three great figures. The operation was then foiled by a small group of 7 Russian spies, barely 18 years old, including: Goar and Gevork. It is this story that inspired the film “Tehran 43” in 1980.
Eventually, they continued their career as (qualiteyyy) spies for decades. Ms. Vartanyan even trained new recruits after her retirement. Gevork died in 2012, aged 87. He received Russia’s highest honour: the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. His wife joined him in 2019, at the age of 93. Even today, a large part of their work remains confidential… A real badass couple, right?
10. Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur (“the Turenge spouses”)
Dominique Prieur is the first woman to enter the Action service of the DGSE (General Directorate for External Security). With Alain Mafart, they pass themselves off as husband and wife, known as the “Turenge”. Their careers as spies were marred and brought to light in 1985, with the “Rainbow Warrior” affair. The French secret services and the Minister of Defense (Charles Hernu) had ordered the sabotage of the flagship of the organization Greenpeace, docked in New Zealand, ready to leave for the atoll of Moruroa in order to hinder French nuclear tests . Unfortunately, Fernando Pereira, member of the crew and photographer of the organization, dies in the explosions of the ship. The false spouses, normally responsible for delivering the explosives and then recovering the divers after this attack, were quickly unmasked, arrested and then charged with “murder, arson and criminal association. They were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by the Auckland court. Really not glorious, all that.