Retired US Army colonel convicted of selling secrets to the Russians

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The Independent US

A retired US Army colonel was yesterday found guilty of selling American secrets to its Cold War enemies over two decades – becoming the highest-ranking officer to be convicted of spying.

George Trofimoff, 74, oversaw an intelligence centre in Nuremberg, Germany from the 1960s to the 1990s. From there he collected US intelligence documents and passed on copies to the KGB through a go-between. His activities are said to have earned him more than $300,000 (£210,000).

Yesterday, Trofimoff showed no emotion after a court in Tampa, Florida, found him guilty of espionage. He could be sentenced to life in prison when he returns to the court in September.

Laura Ingersoll, a Federal prosecutor, said: "What this case should do is send a message to those we entrust our nation's secrets to that if you sell those secrets, if you spy against the United States, we'll pull out all the stops to catch you, to bring you to justice."

Trofimoff served with the Army Reserves, acting as the chief of an Army intelligence centre which questioned refugees and defectors from the eastern bloc. The centre also housed thousands of documents which detailed what America knew about the Soviet Union, particularly its military assets.

The court heard that he passed on these secrets to the KGB through a boyhood friend, Igor Susemihl, a Russian Orthodox priest.

A former KBG general, Oleg Kalugin, testified that Trofimoff was considered one of the Soviet Union's most senior spies during the 1970s and that his codename was at the top of a list of assets passed onto the Soviet leader at the time, Leonid Brezhnev.

Trofimoff, born in Germany to Russian émigrés and married five times, was caught because of information passed on Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB archivist who defected to Britain in 1992, bringing with him tiny scraps of paper he had copied.

British, American and German investigators used this information to try to identify spies. Trofimoff was later captured on videotape, putting his hand on his heart and telling an undercover FBI officer who he thought was a Russian agent: "I'm not American in here."

After yesterday's verdict, the jury chairman, Mark King, revealed that there was little doubt as to Trofimoff's guilt among the jurors. "Just to think someone could do that stuff," he said. "He claimed to be an American, that he served the country for the past 46 years. To think that someone like that would betray the country."