Top Military Man Alleged To Be Spy

Wednesday, June 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A retired Army Reserve colonel was accused of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia for 25 years Wednesday after being arrested in a government sting aimed at some unfinished business from the Cold War.

George Trofimoff, 73, allegedly sold military secrets to the Soviets when he was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army at an installation in West Germany where refugees and defectors from the Soviet bloc were interrogated.

The charges could bring life in prison.

Because of the position he achieved in the reserves, prosecutors called him the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever charged with espionage.

Trofimoff was arrested at a Tampa hotel after meeting with an FBI agent who was posing as a Russian operative delivering a payment.

Soon after, prosecutors unsealed a federal indictment detailing the charges against him — that he gave the Soviets ``documents, photographs, photographic negatives and information relating to the national defense of the United States.''

The indictment said that the Russians paid Trofimoff and gave him an award for bravery. Frank Gallagher, agent in charge of the FBI's Tampa office, said Trofimoff was paid $250,000 over the course of his 25-year spy career.

Trofimoff retired from his Army civilian job in 1995 after 35 years. He has been living on Patriot Drive in a gated community in Melbourne, Fla., and works as a bagger at a supermarket.

At a hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo ordered Trofimoff held without bail and gave him a court-appointed attorney.

Trofimoff's telephone number in Melbourne was unlisted.

Trofimoff was born in Germany to Russian parents and became a U.S. citizen in 1951.

The indictment said he sold classified information he obtained while serving as a civilian chief of the U.S. Army element of the Nuremburg Joint Interrogation Center in Germany from 1969 to 1994. Prosecutors said he had access to all classified information received or produced by the Nuremberg center.

The indictment said Trofimoff was recruited into the KGB by a close friend, Igor Vladimirovich Susemihl, a Russian Orthodox priest who served as the Archbishop of Vienna and Austria and temporary Archbishop of Baden and Bavaria.

Trofimoff also received the Order of the Red Banner, the Soviet award presented to bravery and self-sacrifice in the defense of the socialist homeland, prosecutors said.

Florida has been the scene of other Cold War espionage cases.

In 1984, Ernst Ludwig Forbrich, 43, was convicted of trying to buy U.S. military secrets on behalf of East Germany. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

And in 1982, Army Warrant Officer Joseph George Helmich was sentenced to life in prison after he admitted during his espionage trial in Jacksonville that he had sold military secrets to the Soviet Union.