‘James Bond Fantasy’ Told at Spying Trial
Former FBI Agent Richard W. Miller testified Thursday that accused spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova told him last August that she was a major in the Soviet KGB and that her government would pay “a lot of money” for secret FBI documents.
Miller, who described his affair with the 35-year-old Soviet immigrant as a “James Bond fantasy,” said Ogorodnikova made the claim while apparently intoxicated as they waited in the cocktail lounge of the Charthouse Restaurant in Malibu for a late Sunday dinner last Aug. 5.
“We were in a corner that faced the ocean,” Miller said. “She was sitting there quietly, and then she said she was a major in the KGB. Then she said something like my government pays a lot of money for information.”
Miller said he knew Ogorodnikova was really not a KGB major, adding, “If she was, then they’re in bad shape.” Nonetheless, he said, he decided to “string her along” by suggesting that he might be open to recruitment by the Soviet intelligence service.
“I thought I’d play along to see where this crazy lady was going,” Miller said. “I said I can’t do that. . . . I wouldn’t do anything like that for less than $1 or $2 million.”
Miller’s testimony came during his third day on the witness stand in the Los Angeles espionage trial of Ogorodnikova and her husband, Nikolai, who are accused of conspiring to recruit Miller to pass secret FBI documents to the Soviet Union in exchange for sex and $65,000 in gold and cash.
Miller, who was arrested with the Ogorodnikovs last Oct. 2, faces his own spy trial later this summer on charges that he passed secret information to the Soviet emigre couple. He is testifying against the Ogorodnikovs under a court order that prevents the government from using his statements against him in his own trial.
The 48-year-old former counterintelligence agent, who met Ogorodnikova May 24, 1984, had testified earlier in the week that he began a sexual relationship with the accused Soviet agent in his car at a Little League ballpark in Westwood on their second meeting May 30.
“It was just something that happened,” Miller said Thursday, as Assistant U.S. Atty. Bruce G. Merritt returned to the subject. “It wasn’t premeditated or anything. She was a very attractive woman.”
His reason for meeting with Ogorodnikova in May, Miller said, was that he thought he might be able to recruit her as an FBI informant and possibly even convince her that he was a potential target for Soviet recruitment, even though he was warned by FBI superiors and other agents that she had been unreliable as an informant in the past.
Merritt, continuing a tough and sometimes sarcastic line of questioning, asked Miller if having sex with Ogorodnikova was part of his plan to make her think she was dealing with an agent who could be compromised.
“It just sort of came with the territory,” Miller said. “I had a James Bond kind of fantasy.”
Miller, who admitted that he did not report his contacts with Ogorodnikova to the FBI after May, said he had additional meetings with her in June, but did not see her again until she called him Aug. 2. Ogorodnikova had just returned from a trip to the Soviet Union.
When asked if he had been ordered not to have any further contact with Ogorodnikova by that point, Miller said he could not remember.
“I purposely didn’t tell my supervisors what I was doing,” Miller added. “I had to use techniques that weren’t bureau approved, but they worked.”
Describing the Aug. 5 meeting at the Charthouse, Miller conceded that another reason for going along with Ogorodnikova’s alleged proposition was that he realized that he had already violated FBI regulations in seeing her and becoming sexually involved with her.
“I thought, ‘Well, what have I got to lose?’ I’m committed already,” Miller said. “I realized my job was on the line already.”
Miller, who had been frequently disciplined and threatened with dismissal for being overweight, said he tried to “create the most bizarre circumstances” he could to make sure that he would have proof of his secret FBI project to convince his superiors that he had been involved in something worthwhile.
“I told her, No. 1, that I would provide no information at all, but I would be willing to meet somebody,” he said. “Before I met anybody, I wanted $50,000 in gold in three different safety deposit boxes. That way I would have a key that I could show to my boss.”
After the Aug. 5 meeting, Miller continued, he met again with Ogorodnikova on Aug. 7 at a restaurant near Rosemead, where he said they again discussed the possibility of Miller’s recruitment by Soviet intelligence.
“She had been drinking again,” Miller said. “At one point, she got lost in the restaurant. She had gone to the restroom and then couldn’t find the table.”
After dinner Aug. 7, Miller and Ogorodnikova went to a Hollywood motel and “made love,” the former agent said.
“After that, she said, ‘Would you like to meet somebody who is very important and handles a lot of money?’ ” Miller testified.
They then drove to a Hollywood apartment that Miller recognized as Ogorodnikova’s residence, he added. It was about 1 a.m. on Aug. 8.
“Then she takes me upstairs, goes into her apartment. She says this fellow is named Nikolai Wolfson. She talks to this guy in Russian in the bedroom for a couple of minutes, then he comes out in his bathrobe. We went down to the carport and we talked.”
Miller ended his testimony Thursday by saying he checked FBI records an hour later in Westwood and decided that Nikolai Wolfson was really Nikolai Ogorodnikov. He was so angry, he said, that he called Ogorodnikova, told her he never wanted to see her again and then hung up on her.
The former agent, who subsequently made up with Ogorodnikova and traveled with her to the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco later in August, will continue his testimony today.