T A M P A, Fla., June 5, 2001 -- A retired U.S. intelligence officer gave the Soviet Union "enormous" amounts of sensitive military information while working as a KGB spy in Germany during the Cold War, a federal prosecutor told jurors today at the start of the former officer's espionage trial.
The defendant, retired Army Col. George Trofimoff, 74, of Melbourne, Fla, is the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever charged with espionage. Trofimoff, who has pleaded not guilty, faces life in prison if convicted.
He is accused in a 32-count indictment of stealing classified documents while serving as the civilian head of the U.S. Army's Joint Interrogation Center in Nuremberg, Germany, and selling them to the Soviet secret police, the KGB.
"The amount of classified information the defendant sold to the Soviet Union is enormous," Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Furr said in opening statements at Trofimoff's trial in Tampa federal court.
Trofimoff listened without expression during the statements.
KGB Will Testify
Dozens of former U.S. military officers and former KGB agents were expected to testify at the trial, which is expected to last about a month.
Trofimoff worked at the intelligence center in Nuremberg from 1969 to 1994, and served in the U.S. Army Reserve during most of that time, retiring in 1995 as a colonel.
He was arrested last June after allegedly meeting in Tampa with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian intelligence officer. He has been jailed without bond since then.
Furr said much of the evidence against Trofimoff would come from a six-hour videotaped conversation he previously had with the undercover agent.
On the tape, Furr said, Trofimoff admitted to stealing more than 50,000 documents and selling them to the KGB. He said Trofimoff took them home in his briefcase a few at a time, photographed them and returned them the next day.
Spy or Patriot?
Defense attorney Daniel Hernandez said Trofimoff was not a spy but "an American patriot" whose record showed "nothing but honorable and exemplary service."
He said Trofimoff's statements in the videotaped conversation were "nothing more than fantasy" concocted in order to get money from the Russians.
"He told the undercover agents what they wanted to hear to justify the money he was receiving," Hernandez said. "No one will be able to say they saw Mr. Trofimoff doing anything illegal."
Furr said the documents Trofimoff allegedly stole dealt with crucial information the United States had about the military capabilities of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies. The Soviet Union, the United States' Cold War foe, collapsed in 1991.
Trofimoff was born in Germany to Russian parents and became a U.S. citizen in 1951. Furr said Trofimoff was recruited for the KGB by his childhood friend Igor Susemihl, a priest in the Russian Orthodox church who was also a KGB agent. Susemihl died in 1999.
The German government arrested Trofimoff and Susemihl on espionage charges in 1994 but dropped the charges because Germany's statute of limitations had expired.
Furr said Trofimoff was awarded the Order of the Red Banner by the Soviet Union, an honor presented for bravery, self-sacrifice and courage "in defense of the socialist homeland."