TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever arrested on spying charges went on trial Tuesday with a prosecutor saying the defendant was once No. 1 on the Kremlin's list of intelligence sources during the Cold War.
In opening statements at Army Reserve Col. George Trofimoff's espionage trial, federal prosecutor Walter Furr said Trofimoff delivered more than 50,000 pages of documents to the KGB during a 25-year spying career.
Among the information Trofimoff allegedly passed to the Soviets: details on U.S. battle plans, briefs of chemical and biological weapons and lists of information needed by U.S. intelligence officers.
Trofimoff, 74, faces a life sentence if convicted.
From 1969 until 1994, Trofimoff was a civilian chief of a U.S. Army installation in West Germany where refugees and defectors from the Soviet bloc were interrogated.
He has denied the spying accusations. His lawyer, Daniel Hernandez, has said Trofimoff was so strapped for cash that he made up the fantastic tales of Cold War espionage to collect reward money an undercover agent offered.
Trofimoff was the target of an undercover FBI investigation for more than three years. He lived in an exclusive Melbourne neighborhood for military retirees and had been working as a grocery store bagger when he was indicted last June.
Furr told the jury that KGB chief Yuri Andropov personally delivered a list of top sources to then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in the early 1970s, and Trofimoff was at the top of the list. Andropov later became the Soviet Union's leader himself.
Furr also said there are connections between Trofimoff and the KGB agents who managed Aldrich Ames, a veteran CIA officer who spied for the Soviets for more than eight years; and Clayton Lonetree, a Marine guard at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow who served nearly a decade in prison after being convicted of spying in the 1980s.
Trofimoff, born in Germany to Russian emigres, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1951, joined the Army in 1953 and was honorably discharged three years later, though he rose to colonel in the reserves. He was hired as a civilian in Army intelligence in 1959.
At the time of his arrest last June, a prosecutor said Trofimoff collected $300,000 for photographing volumes of secret U.S. intelligence documents and giving them to the KGB through a go-between, a boyhood friend who became a Russian Orthodox priest.