Of the 11 alleged "deep cover" Russian spies arrested over the weekend, none has intrigued the media more than Anna Chapman, the "flame-haired, 007-worthy beauty who flitted from high-profile parties to top-secret meetings around Manhattan," as the New York Post colorfully puts it. So, who is this almost stereotypical "Bond girl," what was she doing in New York, and how did she get caught? (Watch The Young Turks discuss what Anna Chapman may have known)
Who is Anna Chapman?
Anna Kuschenko Chapman, 28, was reportedly raised in Volgograd (then called Stalingrad). Her father was a member of the Soviet Union's diplomatic corps and worked in the embassy in Kenya when Chapman was a child. According to her LinkedIn profile, Chapman earned a master's in economics in 2005, and worked for a (possibly fabricated) hedge fund and an online private-jet broker in Britain from 2003 to 2008. Since 2006, she's owned an online real estate start-up, Domdot.ru and PropertyFinder Ltd., worth an estimated $2 million. Acquaintances say she was briefly married to a wealthy Englishman.
Why has Chapman stood out?
While most of the alleged Russian spies are middle aged couples apparently trying to blend into the suburbs, this young divorcée splashed her profile and photos all over social networking sites. Her glamourous Manhattan lifestyle and "Victoria’s Secret body" probably factor in, too.
What can we learn from her Facebook page?
She isn't camera-shy, and she likes Alma de Agave Tequila. Her other "interests" are New York Entrepreneur Week, Do It In Person, AMBAR, MostProperties.com, and the School of Academic and Professional Blogging. Her motto is "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it."
Why does the FBI think she's a spy?
Federal agents say that Chapman had regular Wednesday cyber-meetings with a man identified as "Russian Government Official #1," in which they'd pass information through a shared laptop-to-laptop wireless network from across a street. She also bought a cell phone, under the fake name "Irine Kutsov" and address "99 Fake Street," to "avoid detection of her conversations" to Russia not long before she was arrested. Despite this seemingly amateurish front, federal prosecutor Michael Farbiarz says the evidence that she's a specially trained "agent of Russia" is "devastating."
How was she caught?
An undercover FBI agent, posing as a Russian handler, approached Chapman and asked her to deliver a fake passport to another spy. Instead, on the advice of her real Russian bosses, Chapman turned the passport into the New York police, leading to her arrest.
What's her side of the story?
Chapman's lawyer, Robert Baum, says there's an innocent explanation for her activities. He points out that his client never set foot in the U.S. until 2005, and didn't move here until February, while the alleged spy ring dates back to 1990. Baum also says the fact she went to the police with the fake passports proves she's innocent. A "brilliant spy," as the FBI calls Chapman, wouldn't make such a rookie mistake, Baum argues. "[The FBI] can't have it both ways."
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