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Former Army Green Beret and U of M student sentenced for Russian espionage

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 46, was sentenced to 188 months in prison.

A former U.S. Army Green Beret and University of Minnesota student has been sentenced to 188 months in prison for a Russian espionage conspiracy.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 46, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Friday.

“Debbins flagrantly and repeatedly sold out his country, including while he served as a Captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces,” said Raj Parekh, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a statement.

“The defendant’s brazen disclosures to Russian intelligence agents jeopardized U.S. national security and threatened the safety of his fellow service members.”

According to court documents, Debbins met with Russian intelligence agents from 1996 until January 2011. In 1997, he was given a code name by Russian intelligence agents and signed a statement promising that he wanted to serve Russia.

Debbins first began meeting with Russian intelligence when he was a member of ROTC at the University of Minnesota, according to the Associated Press.

Debbins served as an active duty officer in the Army from 1998 to 2005. He worked on chemical units before he was selected for the Special Forces, which Russian intelligence encouraged him to pursue. 

Debbins would provide information about his chemical and Special Forces units to Russian intelligence.

After leaving active duty, Debbins disclosed to Russian intelligence classified information about when he was deployed in the Special Forces. 

He also provided names and information about his fellow service members for recruitment by Russian intelligence.

“The Green Berets epitomize heroics, leadership, and bravery, but Debbins was just the opposite,” said Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI, in a statement.

“Debbins’ actions in this case show a complete disregard for his fellow soldiers and for his country.

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