Wife of CIA Russian spy sentenced to five years

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A BOWED and contrite Rosario Ames was jailed for more than five years yesterday for helping her husband, Aldrich 'Rick' Ames, the CIA official convicted of spying for Moscow, in what is probably the most damaging espionage case in modern United States' history.

Admitting that she had made 'terrible mistakes', Ms Ames insisted she had been manipulated and blackmailed by a man she now 'hated'. Colombian-born Ms Ames listened from the dock of the Alexandria, Virginia, courthouse as judge Claude Hilton sentenced her to 63 months without parole, the minimum sentence agreed under an earlier plea-bargain with federal prosecutors.

Under that deal, Aldrich Ames pleaded guilty to passing secrets to the Soviet Union, and then Russia, for dollars 2.5m ( pounds 1.54m) between 1985 and 21 February 1994, when the couple were arrested.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, but agreed to co-operate fully with the authorities in return for leniency for his wife.

The fate of Ms Ames was a powerful weapon in the hands of the interrogators as they sought to measure the full extent of Ames' betrayal, said to have wrecked 50 or more intelligence operations and cost the lives of at least 10 CIA agents captured and executed by the Russians.

The fact that she received a low sentence suggests Aldrich Ames fulfilled his side of the bargain. Rosario Ames said yesterday that she had only discovered her husband was working for the Russians in 1992, and knew nothing of the material he was handing over.

She did not turn him in, she said, for fear of her safety and that of the couple's five- year-old son Paul. 'He told me if he got caught, we might all be killed . . . Just as he lied to the CIA, he lied and manipulated me.'

Until the last, however, prosecutors argued for a sterner sentence, pointing to eavesdropped conversations between the couple that suggested Ms Ames was deeply involved.

She also lived happily and lavishly off the money paid by the Russians, the US attorney, Mark Hulkower, said yesterday. 'There are a lot of victims in this case, but she is not one of them.'