Former Army Green Beret Sentenced for Russian Espionage Conspiracy
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former Army Green Beret was sentenced today to 188 months in prison for conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives to provide them with U.S. national defense information.
“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. “The defendant’s brazen disclosures to Russian intelligence agents jeopardized U.S. national security and threatened the safety of his fellow servicemembers. This prosecution underscores our firm resolve to hold accountable those who betray their sworn oath and bring them to justice for their exceptionally serious crimes.”
According to court documents, from December 1996 to January 2011, Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 46, of Gainesville, a former member of the U.S. Army, conspired with agents of a Russian intelligence service. During that time, Debbins periodically visited Russia and met with Russian intelligence agents. In 1997, Debbins was assigned a code name by Russian intelligence agents and signed a statement attesting that he wanted to serve Russia.
“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,” said John C Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “His conduct is a personal betrayal of colleagues and country, and it reflects the threat of Russian intelligence operations targeting our military. Today’s almost 16-year sentence reflects the seriousness of his conduct. It should also serve as a warning to those who would be tempted to do the same.”
“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. “Debbins’ actions in this case show a complete disregard for his fellow soldiers and for his country. The FBI will do everything in its power to identify those who choose to betray our country and bring them to justice.”
“The betrayal of fellow U.S. citizens and servicemembers is inexcusable, and today Debbins was sentenced for his reprehensible and dangerous actions,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “He was entrusted to serve his country and protect his fellow Special Forces team, but instead he chose to provide classified national defense information to his own country’s adversary. This investigation which led to today’s sentencing is a reminder that the FBI and our partners will continue to diligently and doggedly counter national security threats to the U.S.”
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. The Russian intelligence agents encouraged him to join and pursue a career in the Special Forces, where he attained the rank of Captain.
Over the course of the conspiracy, Debbins provided Russian intelligence agents with information he obtained as a member of the U.S. Army, including sensitive details 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. Debbins also provided the Russian intelligence agents with names of and information about several his former Special Forces team members for the purpose of allowing the agents to recruit them to conspire with the Russian intelligence service.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI; and Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office; made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas W. Traxler and James L. Trump and Trial Attorney David Aaron of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted the case.
Acting U.S. Attorney Parekh and Assistant Attorney General Demers greatly appreciate the assistance of Army Counterintelligence, the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police Service, and MI5.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:20-cr-193.
Updated May 14, 2021