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Accused Russian spies due in court; 1 still sought

In this courtroom sketch, Anna Chapman, left, Vicky

In this courtroom sketch, Anna Chapman, left, Vicky Pelaez, second from left, the defendant known as "Richard Murphy", center, the defendant known as "Cynthia Murphy", second from right, and the defendant known as "Juan Lazaro" are seen in federal court in Manhattan on Monday. The Murphys, Lazaro, and Pelaez are among the 10 people accused of serving for years as secret agents of Russia's intelligence organ, the SVR. (June 28, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

The suburban New Jersey couple accused of being part of a Russian spy ring are expected in a federal court in Manhattan Thursday for a bail hearing as authorities search for another alleged member of the operation who vanished in Cyprus, a day after being released on bail.

Federal prosecutors will argue the New Jersey pair, known as "Richard Murphy," 39, and "Cynthia Murphy," 35, should continue to be held without bail because they might flee the United States.

They are seeking bail to be reunited with their two young children, officials said.

Another suspect, who had gone by the name Christopher Metsos, 54, who was wanted in the U.S. on charges he supplied money to the spy ring, had been arrested Tuesday in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus as he tried to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary.

Wednesday, after a Cypriot judge had freed him on $32,500 bail, he failed to show for a required meeting with police, and authorities began searching for him, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI refused to comment on Metsos' disappearance.

The children of the New Jersey couple, whom Richard Murphy's defense attorney Donna Newman wouldn't identify, are safe, she said.

"It is my information they are not out on the street," said Newman.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan said non-adult children of defendants are normally placed in the care of child protective services.

Lauren Kidd, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Office of Children and Families, wouldn't comment on the Murphy children, who in news photos are shown to be preteen girls. But she said generally when there are no allegations of abuse or neglect, parents can make private arrangements for a child's care.

The Murphys were among a group of suspected Russian spies on "deep-cover" assignments in the United States.

The defendants were charged in separate criminal complaints with conspiring to act as agents of a foreign power in the United States without notifying the Department of Justice. Nine defendants, including Richard Murphy, were accused of conspiracy to commit money laundering, mostly through the handling of funds allegedly sent from "Moscow Center," the spy hub.

According to the complaints, the spies allegedly attempted to gain access to federal government positions or else serve as talent spotters and become friendly with people who had such access.

No major, damaging national security breaches were alleged.

But the arrests have fueled a media frenzy.

One of the suspects is Anna Kuschenko Chapman, 28. The complaint is replete with tales of secret meetings at railroad stations in Forest Hills, "brush-by" transfers of documents and digging in fields for money stashes.

In the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach, reaction among locals seemed sanguine.

At Mosvideo, a video store on Fifth Street, owner Vladimir Traynin, 52, said the Russian spy arrests will have no affect on U.S. and Russian government relations. "It is the best relations the world has ever seen. It will not be affected."

Employee Aleksandr Skorokmed, 39, laughed and said: "The World Cup is more interesting than this espionage story."

"It's not a big deal," said Traynin, who is from Moscow and opened his store 17 years ago. "What information did they get? - doesn't seem interesting to me."

With Maria Alvarez

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