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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S.: Spy Recruited by Soviet Bishop

TAMPA, Florida -- A bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church recruited a retired U.S. Army colonel who has been charged with selling secrets to the Soviet Union, U.S. authorities said. The case is the first to expose a church official in an espionage role.

A U.S. grand jury in Tampa this week indicted Army Colonel George Trofimoff of Melbourne, Florida, alleging he stole classified information while serving as the civilian head of a U.S. intelligence operation in Nuremberg, Germany, and sold it to the KGB.

U.S. authorities alleged Trofimoff, who was known by the KGB code names "Antey," "Markiz" and "Konsul," was recruited for the Soviets by Igor Susemihl, a childhood friend who became a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church and served as archbishop of Vienna and Austria.

Trofimoff and Susemihl, both sons of Russian emigr?s, were raised together in Germany, the indictment said.

Susemihl, who died last year, was born in Chernigov, Ukraine, in 1919. During World War II, he became a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1920s.

In 1957, he switched jurisdictions, from the church abroad to the Moscow Patriarchate. In 1966, he became the Moscow Patriarchate's bishop for West Germany and then in 1975 for Austria. He died last year as Metropolitan Iriney of Vienna and Austria.

Trofimoff served in the U.S. Army reserve for most of his civilian employment and retired as a colonel in 1995 after a 35-year career. He recently worked bagging groceries at a supermarket, said a U.S. Justice Department official.

"He is the highest-ranking United States military officer ever to be charged with espionage," said Tampa U.S. Attorney Donna Bucella.

The indictment alleged Trofimoff, who had "top secret" security clearance, took military intelligence from the U.S. Army Element of the Joint Interrogation Center in Nuremberg. They say the conspiracy lasted from 1969, when Trofimoff became head of the Nuremberg intelligence unit, to 1994, just before he retired.

The information included documents on U.S. intelligence objectives and Soviet and Warsaw Pact battle documents that detailed U.S. knowledge of Cold War adversaries' military capabilities.

The indictment said Trofimoff received 90,000 Deutsche marks ($43,836) from the KGB and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner, a Soviet honor presented for "special bravery, self-sacrifice and courage ? in defense of the socialist homeland."

Bucella said Trofimoff and Susemihl were arrested in Germany on suspicion of espionage in December 1994 but were released on a statute-of-limitations issue.