A former Army Green Beret living in Gainesville has been arrested for allegedly conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives for more than a decade to provide them with national defense information, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was arrested Friday, Aug. 21, for allegedly conspiring with agents of a Russian intelligence service between 1996 and 2011, according to court documents. Debbins purchased a single-family home in the Wentworth Green subdivision in Gainesville in 2013, county records show.
Debbins told Russian intelligence agents that he considered himself a “son of Russia” and believed the United States was too dominant in the world and needed to be cut down to size, prosecutors said.
Debbins was born in Minnesota and is a U.S. citizen. His mother immigrated to Minnesota from the former Soviet Union.
According to U.S. Department of Justice press release, Debbins periodically visited Russia and met with Russian intelligence agents. He was assigned a code name by Russian intelligence agents in 1997 and signed a statement attesting that he wanted to serve Russia.
From 1998 to 2005, Debbins served on active duty as an officer in the U.S. Army, serving in chemical units before being selected for the U.S. Army Special Forces. Russian intelligence agents allegedly encouraged him to join and pursue a career in the Special Forces.
Debbins allegedly 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.
In 2008, after leaving active duty service, Debbins disclosed to the Russian intelligence agents classified information about his previous activities while deployed with the Special Forces, according to court documents.
Debbins also provided the Russian intelligence agents with the names of, and information about, a number of his former Special Forces team members so that the agents could evaluate whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service, also according to court documents.
“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy,” John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security said in a news release.
Debbins is charged with conspiring to provide United States national defense information to agents of a foreign government. If convicted, Debbins faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Debbins is currently being held in a detention center in Alexandria.
“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” said Alan Kohler, FBI assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division, also in a news release.