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$500,000 IN AMES’ ASSETS TO BENEFIT VICTIMS OF CRIME

SHARE $500,000 IN AMES’ ASSETS TO BENEFIT VICTIMS OF CRIME

Crime victims around the country will benefit from more than $500,000 that federal prosecutors have wrung from the seized assets of Moscow's free-spending spies, Aldrich and Rosario Ames.

After the former CIA counterintelligence officer and his wife pleaded guilty last year to spying in the most damaging espionage case in U.S. history, federal prosecutors seized their foreign bank accounts, a suburban home, red Jaguar sedan and household goods. The property was sold; the possessions, auctioned.Today, U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey, whose office prosecuted the case in suburban Alexandria, Va., was to give a check for the proceeds from the confiscated property to the Justice Department's Crime Victims Fund.

The check will be "in the range of $520,000 to $540,000," said one Justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Another Justice official put the amount at "well in excess of $500,000."

The 10-year-old crime victims fund is supported entirely by criminal fines and forfeitures from federal offenders and is distributed to states to use for compensating and assisting victims of federal and state crimes.

The fund can pay for uninsured costs of medical care and equipment, mental health counseling, funeral costs and lost wages. It also is used for temporary housing, crisis intervention and emergency transportation to court. From 1985 through 1994, $1.2 billion has gone into the fund.

Ames never earned more than $70,000 a year from the U.S. spy agency. However, he was paid more than $2.5 million by the Soviet KGB and its Russian successor for nine years of espionage that began in 1985. He is blamed for the execution of at least 10 Western agents and the exposure of dozens of operations targeted on Moscow and the East bloc.

The forfeitures in the Ames case were small by comparison with what the couple earned from spying because they spent most of the money.

As the government told the court when the couple pleaded guilty, "The money Aldrich Ames received from the Russians was used to buy a $540,000 home in Virginia, property in South America, expensive automobiles, first-class air travel, extensive ward-robes for both the defendant and her husband, and to pay for private schools and some $500,000 in credit-card bills."

Ames bought the house in 1989 at the height of the local real estate market and spent $99,000 improving the kitchen and adding a deck, hot tub and landscaping.

But in a depressed market, the house sold this past spring for only $401,000, and the government had to pay for a new sump pump in the basement to deal with a water problem.

A Justice official said about $100,000 was seized from bank accounts in Switzerland and other foreign countries. Auctions were held to sell off Ames' suits and the couple's jewelry, silver, crystal, artwork, stereo, coffee maker and a 19th century desk.

Ames, 54, is being held under maximum security at Allenwood Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. He has completed one year of a life sentence with no parole. His wife is serving five years and three months, but should be released sooner with time off for good behavior.