| 15°C Dublin

Controversy erupted after discovery of sleeper agents in US

The latest controversy involving Irish passports erupted in June when US law enforcement agencies arrested 10 people who, they believed, were operating a Russian spy ring.

One of the 10, who used the name Richard Murphy, used an Irish passport to travel to Moscow after picking it up in Rome using the name Gerard Doherty.

It later emerged that the passport belonged to Gerard Eunan Doherty, from Carndonagh, Co Donegal. His wife Maureen's passport had also been used by the spy ring after the couple had travelled to Russia on holiday in 2005.

"Murphy" and his wife, Cynthia, were charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.

He was alleged to have created his own background in which he stated he was born in Philadelphia and later married Cynthia A Hopkins, who claimed to have been born in New York.

The couple were dubbed the "New Jersey conspirators" after they moved to a quiet residential area of Montclair, New Jersey, where they lived with two daughters and two dogs.

While "Cynthia" worked in finance in New York, where she apparently was building up a network of well-connected contacts, Richard was a stay-at-home dad.

According to documents filed in the US attorney general's office, a coded message was sent from the head office of the intelligence agency in Russia, the SVR, to the spies, who had integrated into American society.

They were told they had been sent to the US on a long-term service trip and had been provided with their education, bank accounts, cars and houses to serve one goal.


Their mission was to develop ties in policymaking circles in the US and send intelligence back to Moscow.

On January 23 this year, Richard Murphy travelled to Rome and collected his passport in the name of Gerard Eunan Doherty, issued on July 30, 2001. It contained a business visa for Russia.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The spy ring members were arrested by the FBI after mobile phone calls were intercepted.

But in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War, they were ordered to be deported in July in exchange for four people convicted of betraying Moscow to the West.

The spies pleaded guilty in heavy Russian accents -- despite having spent years posing as US citizens -- to conspiracy and were sentenced to time served and ordered out of the country.

Most Watched