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Montclair neighbors: Wife in Russian spy case was friendly, just finished MBA ^ | June 29, 2010 | MARLENE NAANES, MARY JO LAYTON AND JUSTO BAUTISTA

Posted on 06/29/2010 2:11:24 PM PDT by Shermy

Neighbors of the Montclair couple accused of being Russian spies painted the woman as a friendly, involved mother who recently completed an MBA while her husband stayed at home and kept to himself. But they also questioned how helpful the couple could have been to the Russian government if they were indeed spies.

Moscow sent Cynthia and Richard Murphy to infiltrate government circles — to befriend political movers and shakers, including a prominent New York financier with high-level political connections, officials said. But neighbors said the husband seemed to rarely leave the home — outside of walking the girls to a school bus stop — and the couple apparently gave different hometowns to different people.

“If his job was to cultivate relationships … he was anti-social,” said neighbor Chris Manthey.

Lisa Kalb Schaffer, who first met the couple at a garage sale she held, said the wife claimed they had come from Toronto but did not recognize a suburb when Schaffer said her sister in law lived there. Cynthia Murphy SPECIAL TO THE RECORD Cynthia Murphy

“It’s like saying … if you live in Manhattan, you never heard of New Rochelle, Bridgeport, Hoboken,” Schaffer said. “She claimed they were from Toronto, and apparently they told neighbors they were from other places so that doesn’t make a good spy, does it? ... It’s just stupid. If you’re a spy, that’s spy 101. Get your stories straight. ”

The wife, who neighbors knew as Cindy, would walk to the bus that took her to a finance job in the city, petting dogs along the way, neighbors said. Her husband was more reclusive and unfriendly, not showing up with his wife and two young daughters to an annual block party.

“She was the kind of person that would go up to you and say hello or remember your name,” said Chris Delaney, who lives across the street and would take a bus to the city with the wife. “I said hello to him a few times, and he just turned his head.”

Some neighbors were surprised the wife was tied to a secret operation but were not terribly shocked her husband was accused of being a spy.

“I wasn’t shocked let’s put it that way because he was so reclusive,” Manthey said.

Janette Lauture, who lives a few houses away, said Richard Murphy’s behavior put “him on her radar. He would just nod when she said hello, never saying anything.

“It was eerie he would just nod,” Lauture said.

Elizabeth Lapin and her 13-year-old son Blake, who live a few houses away from the Murphy’s, recalled seeing Cynthia Murphy and her two daughters frequently but said Richard Murphy was “mister mystery’’ because he rarely interacted with neighbors.

Elizabeth recalled Cynthia getting off a bus daily from her job in New York as a financial planner. “She’d come home carrying flowers and bread.’’

“If you were to look at everybody she’d be the last person you’d suspect,’’ Elizabeth Lapin said. “She had a kindness and sweetness about her.’’

Other neighbors found it strange that the couple bothered to use fake names and hide the fact they were Russian.

“This is a very international neighborhood,” said Stanley Skolnik, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 31 years. “We have people from all walks of life. These people wouldn’t come here to hide, they’d come here to fit in.”

Some people joked that maybe they got caught up more with the lifestyle their alleged spy gig afforded them than with the work itself.

“They were enjoying the American dream, I guess,” said Schaffer, their former neighbor. “That must have been fun for them to live on a nice street in Montclair, live amongst the prosperous. I guess you do need to try harder to be a better spy if you want to keep up that lifestyle. If you want to keep your job … you’ve got to be proactive.”

Last week, Cynthia Murphy was out front watering her plants and tending to her yard, which includes landscape improvements she made last year with the help of a contractor.

In October, Cynthia and her daughters, 7-year-old Lisa and 11-year-old Kate attended the neighborhood block party where the girls went on a fire truck and had their faces painted.

“They acted like everybody else,’’ Blake Lapin said. The cul-de-sac is filled with children riding bikes and hanging out and the Murphy daughters frequently joined in, Blake said.

As FBI agents descended on the house, neighborhood teenagers went on Facebook and reported what they saw. “OMG. FBI and police at my neighbor’s house,’’ Lapin read from his laptop to reporters gathered at his house Tuesday afternoon. “My neighbors were arrested for spying for Russia!!!!’’ another teen reported. Blake Lapin responded: “My neighbors are Russian spies. I think it’s clear who has the coolest neighbors.’’

For his mother, Elizabeth, 56, the arrests triggered a far different reaction. “For someone who grew up in the Cold War, it’s really strange. It’s suddenly my childhood breathing down my neck,’’ she said.

She bought her house four years ago in part because of an idyllic stream that runs behind the house. When she learned of the arrest, she said she envisioned her neighbors sending secret messages decoded in bottles down the stream.

Many of the Marquette Street residents did not want to speak publicly of the couple because they liked them, were baffled by their charges and were concerned for the children.

One neighbor who lives across the street and who said her children were friends with the Murphy girls said she was really concerned about the kids, who she believed were in the care of a family friend in town.

“I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now,” said the neighbor. “They were really, really good kids.”

According to her LinkedIn profile, Cynthia Murphy was a vice president for Morea Financial Services, an accounting and bookkeeping company at 120 Broadway in New York. The profile also said she graduated from New York University and Columbia University’s business school.

Company owner Barbara Morea said she didn't know anything about the espionage case, saying, "I have the same information you have. I can only assume it's the same person."

"I'm in total shock right now," Morea continued. "She was an exceptional employee and a terrific mom."

Morea said Murphy had worked for her for many years but declined to discuss her work in detail, saying, "It's just very difficult right now. I'm in total shock. I can't believe it."

New York University confirmed that a Cynthia Murphy graduated from Stern School of Business in 2000, and Columbia University said she received an MBA degree in May. The couple has two daughters who attended Hillside Elementary School, according to a representative in the office of Schools Superintendent Frank Alvarez.

Hillside School, one of the district’s 11 magnet schools, is focused on gifted and talented students. Hillside is a third-through-fifth grade school.

Under the guise of a happily married couple, the Murphys were instructed by “Moscow center” to become sufficiently “Americanized” so they could gather information for Russia and recruit sources and infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles, according to the complaint. The couple previously lived in an apartment in Hoboken before moving to Montclair in the fall of 2008.

Cynthia Murphy was also directed to collect information on certain university associates and to try to dig up personal data on students who apply or are already hired for a job by the CIA, according to the complaint.

The couple — whose marriage authorities say may have been a ruse — were given fictitious names, bank accounts, cars and homes, exchanged money and laptops at several parks, train stations, and restaurants in New York, Moscow and Rome, where Richard Murphy allegedly met with a Russian secret agent named Christopher R. Metsos, who was arrested in Cyprus Tuesday.

But all the while they were under surveillance by federal agents.

The Murphys appeared in Manhattan federal court Monday night when their defense attorneys consented to detention pending a hearing at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The Murphys — authorities said their names are fake — and nine others were charged with conspiring to act as unlawful agents for Russia in the United States, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the Justice Department said. They included two alleged spies in Yonkers, three in Arlington, Va., two in Boston, and one in New York City.

Each was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Nine of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum 20 years in prison.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; US: New Jersey
KEYWORDS: arlington; boston; chrismetsos; christophermetsos; christopherrmetsos; cia; columbiau; columbiauniversity; cyprus; metsos; murphy; nyu; rooskyspyring; yonkers

1 posted on 06/29/2010 2:11:25 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy

Well, I’m sure the neighbors have more information than the FBI. Good thing the Murphys weren’t serial killers.

2 posted on 06/29/2010 2:14:16 PM PDT by pfflier
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To: Shermy; fieldmarshaldj; GOPsterinMA; Impy

3 posted on 06/29/2010 2:14:55 PM PDT by Perdogg (Nancy Pelosi did more damage to America on 03/21 than Al Qaeda did on 09/11)
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To: Shermy
In Russia, Business Administration Masters you!
4 posted on 06/29/2010 2:17:17 PM PDT by Thurston_Howell_III (Ahoy polloi... where did you come from, a scotch ad?)
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To: Perdogg

Well give you ten russian spies. russia we will give you obama. DEAL!

5 posted on 06/29/2010 2:19:12 PM PDT by truthbetold11 (truthbetold11)
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To: Shermy
whose marriage authorities say may have been a ruse

Then where did the kids come from?

6 posted on 06/29/2010 2:21:36 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: colorado tanker

There are orphanages in Russia full to overflowing.

7 posted on 06/29/2010 2:22:59 PM PDT by CholeraJoe ("What did the English ever give you? Muffins and a burnt White House. ")
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To: Shermy
Guess these erudite neighbors never heard of the internet.

If you aren't out there socializing in their pool then you're nothing?

8 posted on 06/29/2010 2:28:21 PM PDT by Carley (For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.)
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To: CholeraJoe

Poor things. Their lives have just been turned upside down.

9 posted on 06/29/2010 2:30:41 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: Shermy

“Is crazy Amerikan Kops out of control!” - Putin

10 posted on 06/29/2010 2:36:58 PM PDT by texson66 (Congress does not draw to its halls those who love liberty. It draws those who love power .)
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To: Shermy

Wonder if she used student loans for her MBA?

11 posted on 06/29/2010 3:28:25 PM PDT by Gadsden1st
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To: Perdogg

Send her to the chair.

12 posted on 06/30/2010 11:45:34 AM PDT by Impy (DROP. OUT. MARK. KIRK.)
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