Richard Miller (agent)

Richard W. Miller (December 13, 1936 – October 16, 2013) was an American FBI agent who was the first FBI agent indicted and convicted of espionage. In 1991, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was freed after serving fewer than three years.

Personal lifeEdit

Richard William Miller was born in Wilmington, California, on December 13, 1936.[1] He graduated from high school in Lynwood, California. He completed a two-year Mormon mission to Latino communities in Texas, and then attended Compton Junior College. He was a 1963 graduate of Brigham Young University, and a 20-year veteran of the FBI at the time of his arrest.

Colleagues who knew Miller described him as "bumbling", "inept", and "lunchy". The last description referred to his unkempt appearance, and the fact that he often was observed with food crumbs and stains on his clothing. Former FBI Special Agent and author Gary Aldrich described Miller in this manner:

Most agents assigned to Los Angeles during that time who knew Miller would probably agree that he should never have been hired in the first place. How he even got through the FBI Academy was a big mystery. But how Miller avoided losing his job for being one of the dumbest, most unkempt, most unpopular misfits the agency had ever hired was not a mystery. The management should have watched Miller more carefully.[2]

Additionally, according to a Washington Monthly article by Matthew Miller (no relation), Miller was described in this fashion:

After 20 years with the bureau, Miller had a personnel file filled with doubts about his job performance. His superiors had repeatedly admonished him to control his ballooning weight. And in 1982, a psychologist examined Miller and told the FBI that he was emotionally unstable and should be nurtured along in some harmless post until retirement.

During a September, 1986 segment for the CBS news program 60 Minutes, colleagues interviewed on camera observed that Miller had been such a sub-par performer that he had at one time lost his gun and FBI credentials.[3]


On October 3, 1984, Miller was arrested with Svetlana and Nikolai Ogorodnikov, Russian immigrants who had moved to Los Angeles in 1973 to seek refuge, but who were actually access agents of the Soviet KGB.[citation needed] Miller was alleged to have provided classified documents, including an FBI Counterintelligence manual, to the Ogorodnikovs after demanding $50,000 in gold and $15,000 cash in return.[citation needed] Miller, who had eight children and was faced with financial difficulties, was having an affair with the married Svetlana Ogorodnikov, and was preparing to travel with her to Vienna at the time of his arrest.[citation needed] It was later alleged that Svetlana Ogorodnikov had been in touch with a KGB case officer working out of the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco and had made arrangements for Miller to meet with the KGB in Vienna.[citation needed]

After his arrest, a fuller portrait emerged of Miller.[4] According to news accounts, Miller occasionally took three-hour "lunches" at the 7-Eleven near his Los Angeles office, gorging himself on stolen candy bars while reading comic books.[4] He was alleged to have cheated his own uncle by selling a muscle-relaxant device he'd patented, and skimmed cash from bureau coffers meant for one of his informants.[4] Miller also ran auto-registration checks and searched FBI criminal indexes for a local private investigator at $500 per search.[4] In early 1984, the LDS Church excommunicated Miller for adultery.[4] He was divorced from his wife, Paula Miller, in late 1988.[citation needed]


After a 10-week trial, and in an agreement with federal prosecutors, both Ogorodnikovs pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Nikolai Ogorodnikov was immediately sentenced to eight years imprisonment. His wife later received a sentence of 18 years, but maintained her innocence and stated that Miller had never provided her with any classified information.

Richard Miller pleaded not guilty, and after 11 weeks of testimony, a mistrial was declared. Following a second trial which ended on June 19, 1986, Miller was found guilty of espionage and bribery. During his trial, Miller attempted to claim that his actions were the result of his unapproved attempts to infiltrate the KGB as a double agent. This claim was rejected by the jury.

On July 14, 1986, Richard Miller was sentenced to two consecutive life terms and 50 years on other charges. This conviction was overturned in 1989 on the grounds that U.S. District Judge David Vreeland Kenyon erred in admitting polygraph evidence during the trial. In October 1989, Miller was granted bail while awaiting a new trial.

Conviction and sentencingEdit

For his third trial, the lead prosecutor was Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Schiff.[4] On October 9, 1990, Miller was again convicted on all counts.[4] On February 4, 1991, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.[4] On January 28, 1993, a Federal Appeals Court upheld his conviction.[3] He later reported that during one of his prison terms he befriended fellow inmate Lyndon LaRouche.[5]

While in prison, Miller trained to become a computer technician.[4] On May 6, 1994, he was released from prison following the reduction of his sentence to 13 years by a federal judge. Svetlana Ogorodnikova was released the same year.[4]

Following his release, he re-located to Northern Utah.[4] He married Tamara Lewis on September 23, 1995.[6]


  1. ^ "California Birth Index, 1905-1995, Entry for Richard William Miller". Lehi, UT:, LLC. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  2. ^ Holden, Henry M. (2008). FBI 100 Years. Zenith Imprint. p. 177. ISBN 9781610607186 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b Chamberlain, Gaius. "History of Spies: Richard Miller". History of Brandywine, MD: Adscape Interntional, LLC. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dorfman, Zach (May 26, 2019). "The Spy Case That Made Adam Schiff a Russia Hawk". Washington, DC.
  5. ^ Weinstein, Henry (December 8, 1989). "Gave Soviets Nothing, Miller Says Espionage: The former FBI agent says his relationship with a Russian woman spy was 'the dumbest thing I did in my whole life.'". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ "Tamara Miller Obituary". The Salt Lake Tribune. November 24, 2016. Retrieved August 19, 2018 – via

Additional referencesEdit

  • Howe, Russell Warren, Sleeping with the FBI: Sex, Booze, Russians and the Saga of an American Counterspy Who Couldn't, Washington, DC, National Press Books, 1993
  • Verbitsky, Anatole, and Dick Adler, Sleeping with Moscow: The Authorized Account of the KGB's Bungled Infiltration of the FBI by Two of the Soviet Union's Most Unlikely Operatives, New York, Shapolsky, 1987
  • "The FBI Managing Disaster?", Gary Aldrich, Law Enforcement Alliance Of America Website
  • "Ma'am, what you need is a new, improved Hoover - J. Edgar Hoover: Management of FBI", Washington Monthly, Mathew Miller, January 1989