Who are Richard and Cynthia Murphy? Here's how FBI nabbed Russian spies disguised as 'typical American family'

The documentary by CBS titled 'FBI Declassified' says the Murphys had come to America with nothing but a birth certificate and had to build up their entire life in the country


                            Who are Richard and Cynthia Murphy? Here's how FBI nabbed Russian spies disguised as 'typical American family'
Richard Murphy (L) (FBI)

Cynthia and Richard Murphy resided on Marquette Road in Montclair, New Jersey, along with their young daughters, Kate and Lisa, and were a seemingly normal next-door American family. However, an FBI bust changed everything when 10 people turned out to be Russian spies. Richard and Cynthia were amongst the couples who were arrested in connection with being part of the spy network. 

A new documentary by CBS titled 'FBI Declassified' will be delving into the FBI arrests and the uncovering of an elaborate spy network that interacted with each other via brush passes and dead drops. Brush passes are minimal contact exchanges were the spies exchanged goods as they walked past each other in an unsuspecting way whereas a dead drop is when goods or materials are buried at a secret location, only to be dug up and received by the intended person. A dead drop could usually be a large sum of cash or money or in some cases weapons or even radio communication devices which is buried in the ground or in a hollow tree, waiting to be picked up by a person.

In 2000, the FBI had been focusing on four couples, one of whom were the Murphys. A clip of the documentary speaks about how the family seemed to be a "typical American family, living out the typical American dream in the typical American neighborhood". The clip also says the Murphys had come to America with nothing but a birth certificate and had to build up their entire life in the country. 

According to a 2018 NorthJersey report, a neighbor of the Murphys, Stanley R Skolnik who lives with his wife Norma on the adjacent road had spoken about the couple and said, "One of the things they did was to keep a low profile. They interacted in a very low-key way."

Norma shared that two weeks before the FBI busted the couple, she had seen a stakeout conducted by the intelligence agency. "There was a black car parked across from their house for a long, long time. There's a man inside reading a newspaper for an hour and a half."

Stanley recalled how he saw the FBI surrounding the couple's house. "I was there when the Secret Service and FBI raided the house, dragging things out and interviewing people in the neighborhood. There were Ford LTDs, government cars, all over the streets. I did not see them march them out."

Another neighbor, Peter Zorich, recalled how he would often see Richard Murphy, a self-described stay-at-home father waiting with his daughters at a close-by school bus stop. Zorich revealed, "The guy had a weird accent, and I remember thinking that the accent did not jibe with where he said he was from."

"When I heard about the arrest, I immediately thought of that accent," Zorich shared. He even recalled how he had entered the couple's home and had even shared some beers with Richard. "I chatted him up for a little bit. Even though their name was 'Murphy', they didn't seem to be Irish."

Richard and Cynthia Murphy were arrested on June 27 in 2010 after FBI agents closed in on the couple as the government broke up a network of 'sleeper spies' in the country. The Murphys actual names reportedly are Vladimir and Lidiya Guryev. 

Back in 2011, the FBI had revealed, "Our case against the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) operatives — dubbed Operation Ghost Stories — went on for more than a decade."

After the couple was arrested, they were swapped by the US for double agent Sergei Skripal and three other Russian nationals who had been imprisoned.

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