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Fan Of 'The Americans' Spy TV Show Gets 5 Years In Prison For Attempting To Sell Satellite Secrets
Gregory Allen Justice, an engineer from Culver City, has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for stealing satellite information from his employer and selling them to someone he thought was a member of a Russian intelligence service (but was actually a FBI agent), the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.
Justice, who had worked on military and commercial satellite programs, pleaded guilty to two counts in May. The first was attempting to commit economic espionage; the second was attempting to send restricted information out of the United States in violation the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
The details involved in Justice’s case are like something out of a contemporary espionage comedy like Burn After Reading. As reported at the L.A. Times, authorities first sensed that something was amiss when it was determined that Justice had transferred mechanical drawings and design information for a satellite program onto a USB device. A subsequent search of his car uncovered several handwritten notes that contained the addresses of the consulate general of Russia in San Francisco and the Russian embassy.
An FBI agent, working undercover as a Russian agent, was later tasked with making contact with Justice. The DOJ said that, in meetings that took place over the course of six months in 2016, Justice asked for and received $3,500 in cash for exchange of information. During one meeting, Justice apparently told the FBI agent that he’d wanted them to form a duo like the one depicted in the FX television series The Americans, which revolves around a pair of Russian spies living in the U.S.
“Unlike a [television series], selling secrets to a foreign government is not entertaining, but in the wrong hands, threatens national security and puts American lives at risk,” Danny Kennedy, the acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement.
As if this story hasn’t been wacky enough, court documents show that there were even more layers to Justice’s case. Records show that prosecutors accused him of wanting to kill his wife (Fargo, much? Yeah we’re going hard with the Coen brothers references here). Apparently, Justice had asked the agent to supply him with Anectine, a powerful muscle relaxant that can cause cardiac arrest, according to the L.A. Times. He told the agent that it would help with his wife’s breathing issues while sleeping, and that she’d been administered Anectine in the past. But records show that she’d never received treatment with the muscle relaxant before. After his arrest, investigators asked him how they were supposed to read his request for the drug. “You're supposed to think I'm trying to kill my wife,” Justice responded, according to court documents.
U.S. District Judge George H. Wu denied prosecutors’ request for a lengthier sentence, saying there was not enough evidence supporting the claim that Justice was planning to kill his wife.
In the midst of all this, another woman was also apparently involved. As noted by the Times, the 50-year-old Justice was sending money to a woman he’d met online, while claiming he’d needed funds to support his ailing wife. Prosecutors say that Justice had been catfished; he hadn’t met the woman in person before, and didn’t know that the woman had falsely claimed that she was the person in a photo depicting a European model. Justice would end up sending over $21,000 in goods to her Long Beach apartment, where she lived with her son and boyfriend, said court records.