A former CIA official convicted a decade ago of espionage has continued to operate from prison and has recruited his son to help him sell information to Russia, according to a federal indictment unsealed today.
Harold Nicholson, 58, and his son Nathaniel, 24, have been indicted on conspiracy, acting as a foreign agent and money laundering charges for allegedly accepting cash for spy activities from contacts in Russia. Each pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment.
The elder Nicholson pleaded guilty in 1997 to espionage charges after admitting to selling U.S. secrets to Russia. He is serving a 23-year sentence at a medium-security federal prison in Oregon.
According to the indictment, "It was part of the conspiracy that defendant Harold James Nicholson utilized his CIA training in instructing defendant Nathaniel James Nicholson on how to collect the funds from the Russian Federation in a covert and secret manner."
The father had been an instructor at the the CIA's training facility known as "The Farm" outside of Williamsburg, Va., before his arrest.
The indictment claims Nathaniel Nicholson applied for a U.S. passport in August 2006 so he could travel internationally "to meet with the Russian Federation to collect money" for him and his father and "to provide information" from his father to his contacts.
The son allegedly collected more than $35,000 after meeting with Russian handlers in Mexico, Peru and Cyprus in several meetings between 2006 and 2008.
According to the indictment, Nathaniel Nicholson received $5,000 in U.S. currency from a Russian handler in October 2006 and was instructed by agents of the Russian Federation to go to Mexico City, Mexico, for another meeting in December 2006.
Harold Nicholson allegedly instructed his son to only bring in less than $10,000 in U.S. currency after meeting the Russian representatives. The final meeting between the son and the Russians allegedly occurred on December 10, 2008, at a TGI Friday's restaurant in Cyprus.
"When approached by a representative of the Russian Federation, defendant Nathaniel James Nicholson used the 'password phrase' provided to him by the Russian Federation in Lima, Peru, to prove his identity," the indictment claims.
At that meeting, the son allegedly accepted $12,000 in U.S. currency and received instructions for his next meeting with Russian agents in Bratislava, Slovakia later this year.
Prosecutors also allege that Harold Nicholson "has attempted to use other inmates at FCI Sheridan to assist him in his efforts to communicate with the Russian Federation on his behalf" since at least June 2000.
Calling this an "amazing case," David Ian Miller, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said, "Harold James Nicholson, a convicted spy, was allowed to serve time in a federal prison in Oregon to be near his family. Without regret, he used that proximity to his family to continue contact with the foreign country for which he was previously convicted of spying."
Nathaniel Nicholson lives in Eugene, Ore., according to the Justice Department.
Prosecutors are also attempting to recover funds allegedly provided to Nathaniel Nicholson by Russian entities, claiming that they are proceeds of his father's espionage.
The Nicholsons could each face sentences of up to 100 years in prison if convicted of all charges.