Richard W. Miller was the first member of the FBI to be indicted for espionage.
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On October 3, 1984, Miller was arrested with Svetlana and Nikolai Ogorodnikov, Russian immigrants who had moved to Los Angeles in 1973 to seek refuge, but who were actually access agents of the Soviet KGB. Miller was alleged to have provided classified documents, including an FBI Counterintelligence manual, to the Ogorodnikovs after demanding $50,000 in gold and $15,000 cash in return. Miller, who had eight children and was faced with financial difficulties, was having an affair with the married Svetlana Ogorodnikov, and was preparing to travel with her to Vienna at the time of his arrest. It was later alleged that Svetlana Ogorodnikov had been in touch with a KGB case officer working out of the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco and had made arrangements for Miller to meet with the KGB in Vienna.
After his arrest, a fuller portrait emerged of Miller. According to various news accounts, Miller occasionally took three-hour "lunches" at the 7-Elevens near his Los Angeles office, gorging himself on stolen candy bars while reading comic books. He was alleged to have cheated his own uncle by selling a muscle-relaxant device he'd patented, and skimmed cash from bureau coffers meant for one of his informants. Miller also ran auto-registration checks and searched FBI criminal indexes for a local private investigator at $500 per search. In early 1984, the LDS Church excommunicated Miller for adultery. He was divorced from his wife, Paula Miller (now renamed Hill), in late 1988. He currently resides in northern Utah with his 2nd wife, Tamara.
After a 10-week trial, and in an agreement with Federal prosecutors, both Ogorodnikovs pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Nikolai Ogorodnikov was immediately sentenced to eight years imprisonment. His wife later received a sentence of 18 years, but maintained her innocence and stated that Miller had never provided her with any classified information.
Richard Miller pleaded innocent, and after 11 weeks of testimony, a mistrial was declared. Following a second trial which ended on June 19, 1986, Miller was found guilty of espionage and bribery. During his trial, Miller attempted to claim that his actions were the result of his unapproved attempts to infiltrate the KGB as a double agent. This claim was rejected by the jury.
On July 14, 1986, Richard Miller was sentenced to two consecutive life terms and 50 years on other charges. This conviction was overturned in 1989 on the grounds that U.S. District Judge David Kenyon erred in admitting polygraph evidence during the trial. In October 1989, Miller was granted bail while awaiting a new trial.
60 Minutes interview
During an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes while he was in prison, colleagues observed that Miller had at one time lost his gun and FBI credentials. Additionally, Svetlana Ogorodnikov alleged that Miller had initiated the affair and had forced himself upon her. When confronted with these accusations by Mike Wallace, Miller demurred, stating that of the two, he was by far "more enthusiastic" in their "lovemaking".
Conviction and sentencing
On October 9, 1990, Miller was convicted on all counts of espionage for the second time and on February 4, 1991, was sentenced to 20 years in Federal prison. On January 28, 1993, a Federal Appeals Court upheld his conviction. He later reported that during his prison term he befriended fellow inmate Lyndon LaRouche.
On May 6, 1994, Miller was released from prison following the reduction of his sentence to 13 years by a Federal judge. At the time of his release, Svetlana Ogorodnikov was still incarcerated.
Colleagues who knew former FBI Special Agent Richard W. Miller described him as "bumbling", "inept", and "lunchy". The last description referred to his unkempt appearance, and the fact that he often was observed with food crumbs and stains on his clothing. Former FBI Special Agent and author Gary Aldrich described Miller in this manner:
- "Most agents assigned to Los Angeles during that time who knew Miller would probably agree that he should never have been hired in the first place. How he even got through the FBI Academy was a big mystery. But how Miller avoided losing his job for being one of the dumbest, most unkept, most unpopular misfits the agency had ever hired was not a mystery. The management should have watched Miller more carefully."
- "After 20 years with the bureau, Miller had a personnel file filled with doubts about his job performance. His superiors had repeatedly admonished him to control his ballooning weight. And in 1982, a psychologist examined Miller and told the FBI that he was emotionally unstable and should be nurtured along in some harmless post until retirement."