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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Prosecutors Say a 'Spy Ring' Suspect Has Confessed

NEW YORK — One of the suspects in an alleged spy ring has confessed to U.S. federal agents that he worked for Russia's intelligence service, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The announcement came on a day when several defendants in the case were making court appearances and while authorities scoured Cyprus for an alleged co-conspirator who disappeared after he was granted bail.

Authorities said in a court filing that Juan Lazaro made a lengthy statement after his June 27 arrest in which he discussed some details of the operation, which prosecutors said involved Russian moles living under assumed identities in U.S. suburbs.

Among other things, he admitted that "Juan Lazaro" was not his real name, that he wasn't born in Uruguay as he had long claimed, that his home in Yonkers had been paid for by Russian intelligence, and that his wife, Peruvian journalist Vicky Pelaez, had passed letters to the "Service" on his behalf.

He also told investigators that even though he loved his son, "he would not violate his loyalty to the 'Service' even for his son," three assistant U.S. attorneys wrote in a court memo.

The lawyer for another suspect told a judge Thursday that his client was innocent.

Donald Heathfield and his wife, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, of Cambridge, Mass., appeared in federal court in Boston on Thursday for a bail hearing. A judge granted a delay until July 16 to give their new lawyers time to prepare.

Heathfield's lawyer, Peter Krupp, said afterward that the evidence revealed so far against his client is "extremely thin."

"It essentially suggests that they successfully infiltrated neighborhoods, cocktail parties and the PTA," he said. "My client looks forward to facing the charges."

As they entered the court in handcuffs and leg shackles, the couple smiled at their sons, a teenager and a college student. The boys waved to their parents.

A magistrate judge in Alexandria, Va., postponed a hearing for three other people accused of being foreign agents: Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko. The hearing has been rescheduled for Friday.

Hearings also were set for additional defendants in New York, including Lazaro, Pelaez and Richard Murphy and Cynthia Murphy.

Police on Thursday searched airports, ports and yacht marinas to find an 11th person who was arrested in Cyprus but disappeared after a judge there freed him on bail. The man, who had gone by the name Christopher Robert Metsos, failed to show up Wednesday for a required meeting with police.

Not due in court Thursday was Anna Chapman, the alleged spy whose presence on social networking sites and the New York party scene has helped to make her a tabloid sensation. She previously was ordered held without bail.

Eight of the suspects were accused by prosecutors of being foreign-born husband-and-wife teams that were supposed to be Americanizing themselves and gradually developing ties to policymaking circles in the United States.

Most were living under assumed identities, the FBI said. Their true names and citizenship remain unknown, but several are believed to be Russians by birth.

Heathfield claimed to be a Canadian,but he was using a birth certificate of a deceased Canadian boy, agents said in a court filing. His wife, Foley, also purported to be from Canada, but investigators said they searched a family safe deposit box and found photographs taken of her when she was in her 20s that had been developed by a Soviet film company.

Lazaro had said he was born in Uruguay and was a citizen of Peru; he was secretly recorded by the FBI talking about a childhood in Siberia, according to court documents.

Two suspects, Chapman and Semenko, were Russians who didn't attempt to hide their national origin, FBI agents said, but they had a similar mission: blend in, network and learn what they could.