A former U.S. Army Special Forces officer pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of providing sensitive military information to Russian intelligence agents.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, who was arrested in August, pleaded guilty to one count of delivering defense information to a foreign government.
Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, said that former Green Beret captain Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, a Minnesota native whose mother was born in Russia, conspired over 14 years to provide agents of an unspecified Russian spy service with USA defense information.
The document says Debbins began meeting with Russian intelligence officers while visiting Russia in 1996, while he was still participating in the ROTC military training program at his USA university.
Prosecutors say Debbins was contacted by an agent of Russian intelligence services while studying in Russia in 1996 at age 19.
Debbins told Russian intelligence he considered himself a "son of Russia", and "thought that the United States was too dominant in the world and needed to be cut down to size", according to the indictment.
In a statement, an Army spokesman added, "When any Soldier among our ranks colludes to provide classified information to our foreign adversaries, they betray the oaths they swore to their country and duty owed to their fellow Soldiers".
Debbins is scheduled to be sentenced on February 26, 2021.
He first traveled to Russia in 1994 when he was 19 years old and met his now-wife, the daughter of a Russian military officer, in Chelyabinsk. Debbins graduated from the University of Minnesota and received his commission from the Army one year later.
As a civilian, he later worked for military contractors in counterintelligence roles, including work as a Russian linguist.
ROTC is US military officer training program for college and university students.
He spent seven years on active duty, three of them serving in special forces, spying for Russian Federation during that time and after he left the Army.
Over the course of the conspiracy, Debbins provided the Russian intelligence agents with information that he obtained as a member of the U.S. Army, including information about his chemical and Special Forces units. Debbins admitted that the agents used the information to evaluate whether other Special Forces officers could be persuaded to cooperate with Russian Federation, and that he identified one individual in particular he believed might be receptive.
Zachary Terwilliger, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said Debbins betrayed his fellow service members by conspiring to provide national defense information to Russian intelligence operatives.
He also admitted in the statement of facts that he was motivated in part by bitterness over his Army service and the potential opportunities to make business contacts in Russian Federation. Lawyers for Debbins did not immediately respond to requests for comment.