Seattle Russian spies 'ideal tenants'

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on June 28, 2010 at 11:07 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 29 at 11:23 AM

SEATTLE - Those who knew them said they were outgoing and courteous, a nice married couple living on Seattle's Capitol Hill.

They lived in the Belmont Court Apartments for at least a year, in apartment 502.

Neighbors living down the hall are floored.

"It's very odd," says Austin Vandergen whose apartment is three doors down.

"I can't believe it's real," he said.

The manager says they were ideal tenants.

"They were the nicest people here," says John Evans, who has managed the apartment building for 9 years. "In fact I wished they stayed on."

Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills are two of the ten people accused of carrying out "deep cover" assignments as Russian spies. The ten were arrested in various places on the east coast over the weekend.

Zottoli and Mills were living in a new apartment in Arlington, Virginia.

Evans says when they lived here, Zottoli passed himself off as an investment banker. Mills said she was going to school.

"They came across as being foreigners. Both of them had an accent. Michael said he was Italian, and he seemed Italian," says Evans.

Federal agents refer to Zottoli and Mills as the "Seattle Conspirators" in court documents. A search of their Seattle apartment turned up a short wave radio and spiral notebooks containing secret codes allegedly used to decode radio transmissions.

Neighbors find it hard to believe such cloak and dagger behavior was going on right next door.

"Kind of creepy actually," said Evelyn Fenner.

"It's very creepy. Very Natalia and Boris," laughed San Osuna.

But many agree, if you're trying to blend in, Seattle's transient Capitol Hill neighborhood is a great place to do it.

"I guess if you're making it your profession to hide, you can do it most anywhere. But here on Capitol Hill it is easy to get lost," says Vandergen.

Zottoli and Mills are charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent and money laundering. The agents alleged mission was to learn about a wide range of information like nuclear weapons, Iran, and the CIA. No information has been made public on how successful these agents may have been.

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