SAN DIEGO – She was once a KGB operative, a Russian emigre who seduced an FBI agent into passing a secret document to the Soviet Union.
Now the woman who pleaded guilty to espionage against the United States in 1985 has gone over to the other side.
Court documents released this month show that Svetlana Ogorodnikova worked as an FBI informant — wearing a wire to tape conversations with a woman accused of having a San Diego private investigator kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Mexico.
Ogorodnikova, who served 11 years in prison on espionage charges, is expected to testify for the prosecution in a trial scheduled to start June 18.
“It is truly ironic,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the FBI agent, Richard Miller, in one of three trials.
Miller, who was arrested in 1984, was the first FBI agent charged with espionage. The case attracted widespread attention and embarrassed the government.
The congressman wasn’t surprised to find Ogorodnikova working for the FBI.
“She wasn’t ideological,” Schiff said. “She always struck me as a disconnected person who really has no purpose other than her own survival.”
Ogorodnikova’s lawyer says her client hasn’t been promised anything for her testimony. In fact, she spent four months in jail in the past two years because her meetings with the FBI violated her parole when they were not reported to her parole officer, said attorney Stanley Greenberg.
The San Diego case has nothing to do with espionage.
Kimberly Bailey of Fallbrook is accused of having Richard Post kidnapped, tortured over five days in Tijuana, and then murdered because she believed he cheated on her with other women and stole money from her business.
Bailey has pleaded innocent to conspiracy to murder a person in a foreign country and other charges. Through her lawyer, she has insisted that Post is alive and in hiding.
Ogorodnikova, who was released from prison in 1995, is a key witness in the case. Federal prosecutors in San Diego said the Russian was friends with Bailey and covertly taped conversations in which the defendant allegedly admitted having Post killed.
Bailey’s lawyer, Richard DeMassa, claims the FBI asked Ogorodnikova to befriend his client. Federal prosecutor Barbara Major declined to discuss the meeting of the two women in detail.
Ogorodnikova emigrated to the United States in the 1970s and settled in the Los Angeles area.
She has spent years fighting a deportation order, but the final resolution was unclear. Federal prosecutors and her lawyer said they did not know her legal status. Karen Kraushaar, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, declined to comment.
Ogorodnikova admitted having an affair with Miller to obtain classified documents for KGB agents based at the Soviet consulate in San Francisco. Miller, an overweight agent with a history of disciplinary problems, claimed he was doing a reverse sting operation.
The first trial of the FBI agent ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked. He was convicted of espionage at a second trial, but the verdict was overturned on appeal. In 1994, he was convicted again. He was released from prison after serving two-thirds of a 13-year sentence.
Despite her earlier confession, Ogorodnikova, in the second and third trials, claimed Miller was innocent and had only recruited her to help catch Soviet spies in the United States.
While the details are unclear, Ogorodnikova met Bailey in the summer of 1999, according to the court documents. At the time, the FBI was investigating the disappearance of Post, whose body has never been found.