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THE ALMOST AMERICANS

FORMER RUSSIAN SPIES JAN AND VICTORYA NEUMANN HELPED THE FBI NAB DIAMOND SMUGGLERS, ART THIEVES AND EUROPEAN MOBSTERS. SO WHY ARE THEY STILL STRANDED IN PORTLAND, OREGON, WITHOUT A COUNTRY TO CALL THEIR OWN? BORN IDENTITY: The man now known as Jan Neumann was once an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
BORN IDENTITY: The man now known as Jan Neumann was once an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

AS AN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER in Russia’s Federal Security Service, Jan Neumann knew the weight of a loaded Makarov 9 mm. When he later worked for a Moscow bank that laundered money for the mob, he also knew the weight of $1 million packed into bricks. But on a spring night in 2008, as he headed home to his wife, he could scarcely comprehend the weight of his impending troubles.

Jan had just walked out of a meeting with a shady bank partner, who explained that the mob and its government associates were after him; he had learned too much about their double-dealing and greed. The partner offered a few ways out. Option one called for Jan to “be an officer Russian slang for putting a bullet in his own skull. Option two: He could wait for someone to do it for him. Option three: He could run like hell.

When Jan reached his top-floor apartment in a swanky section of downtown Moscow, he delivered the news to his wife, Victorya. She was a problem solver who spoke five languages and had gone through the same training academy as her husband in the government’s security service, better known as the FSB. She quickly worked out the details of their escape.

The couple hurriedly packed clothes, jewelry, cellphones, laptops and about $15,000 in cash. Jan then called two friends, both high-ranking FSB officers, and told them of his plans to flee. One would later hand him a dossier on corrupt officials at Lubyanka Square, the FSB’s headquarters. Jan also downloaded an electronic file on several government-affiliated banks, a rare glimpse inside the criminal Cerberus of financial big shots, mobsters and FSB officers.

The Neumanns drove half the night to see a friend, then switched cars and headed back to Moscow. Victorya booked three flights set to depart from airports around the city—decoys to confuse pursuers. In the final hours before their departure, Victorya purchased tickets for the flight they intended to board, bound for Frankfurt, with a connecting flight to the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation that requires no visas.

Jan and Victorya landed at Puerta Plata Airport and took a car to the north-shore town of Cabarete, where they paid cash for a beachfront rental. Using aliases, they deposited their money in a local bank, stashed their Russian passports and marriage certificate in a safe deposit box and bought new cellphones. For a few weeks, they kitesurfed with European expats, worked on their tans and feasted on pescado frito and rum cocktails, blending into the tropical scenery like the island’s ubiquitous color-changing lizards.

At night, they devised a plan to start fresh in a new country. Their first step: to expose deep and dangerous secrets about the one they had left behind.

NO ANGEL IN AMERICA: While in the FSB, Neumann says he pocketed kickbacks from corrupt bankers and the mob with the approval of his superiors.
MOTOYA NAKAMURA FOR NEWSWEEK
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