Russian Spy Ring Members Plead Guilty, Swap Apparently Underway

Anna Chapman (Personal Photo)

Anna Chapman (Personal Photo)
Anna Chapman (Personal Photo)

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) The largest Russia-U.S. spy swap since the Cold War appeared to be in motion Thursday, with 10 guilty pleas from defendants accused of spying for Russia in exchange for the reported release of spies convicted in Russia of spying for the U.S.

PICTURES: Anna Chapman

The defendants all affirmed U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood's question of whether they would plead guilty.

One person familiar with the plea negotiations told The Associated Press that most of the defendants expected to be going home to Russia later Thursday. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter in advance of the plea and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.

An 11th person charged in the case is a fugitive after jumping bail in Cyprus.

Lawyers for two defendants - Anna Chapman and Donald Heathfield - previously told the AP their clients would enter pleas to the conspiracy charge. "It's a resolution that will put this thing behind him as quickly as we can arrange it," said Peter Krupp, the attorney for Heathfield said.

Two Obama administration sources told The Associate Press that the Russian government will release four people in exchange for the members of the Russian spy ring.

Special riot police had beefed up security around Moscow's Lefortovo prison early Thursday and a gaggle of TV cameras and photographers jostled for the best position to see what was going on. A convoy of armored vehicles arrived at the prison, thought to be the central gathering point for people convicted of spying for the West.

Police cars and prison trucks left the prison all morning, but it was unclear whether they carried any passengers.

Five of the suspects charged with spying in the U.S. were ordered to New York on Wednesday, joining five others already behind bars there.

The 11 suspects were formally charged in a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in New York. All were charged with conspiring to act as secret agents; nine were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment demanded that those accused of money laundering return any assets used in the offense.

Complete Coverage of the Russian Spy Ring on Crimesider.