Two out of the ten people who are in federal custody, accused of acting as Russian intelligence agents, lived in Arlington, VA near the Pentagon.
The man who called himself Michael Zottoli along with his wife, who went by the name Patricia Mills, was living in a high rise building. It had a round-the-clock security guard and was footsteps away from a shopping mall, and across the street from a park. Most neighbors had the same reaction upon finding out the couple was arrested and accused of being Russian agents.
“It’s pretty shocking,” said Scott Inouye. “I didn’t think stuff like this still went on.”
“We’re not from the city so we were surprised,” said Erica Whitelaw, whose mother lived in the building. “The FBI is kind of a big deal.”
“That surprises me because I thought relations were a little bit better with Russia and the United States these days,” said Kathy Mizerak.
Witnesses say more than a dozen agents came into the building, known as “The River House,” Sunday night before arresting the couple and searching their apartment.
“My mom works with FEMA and she said she saw two FBI agents show their badges and go into the basement or go into the parking garage in the building and were looking for something,” Whitelaw said.
The couple has two small children who are now in the care of family friends.
Patricia Auxier said her friend lives on the same floor as the couple.
“She heard a loud knocking and so she looked out and they told her to get back inside and then she came out later and they told her that they had arrested two people and that everything was safe,” Auxier said.
The building is tucked in a neighborhood filled with single family homes, and quiet side streets with Neighborhood Watch, ironically reminding people there are watchful eyes all around.
Some neighbors have a view of the Pentagon from their apartment windows. Many of those in the neighborhood work, or used to work, for the US government.
“I worked for Central Intelligence and retired and was a Cold War worker,” said Frank Halligan.
“I noticed that the type of information that they were getting was kind of general, how the US works, economy, politics, rather than what’s the latest weapon or nuclear attack or where are your submarine forces deployed,” Halligan said.
John Henley was in the army for 20 years and worked for the Pentagon. Now he lives down the street and barely flinched when he heard the news.
“It’s been going on the whole time – whether China or Russia, North Korea, the while area – it don’t surprise me one bit,” Henley said.
Read more on the story:
Detained Russians were not spying – ministry