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Four U.S. Embassy Officials Accused Of Spying In Nicaragua

March 14, 1986

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ The state security police chief on Thursday accused two former and two current U.S. Embassy officials of spying for the CIA.

The U.S. Embassy refused to respond to the accusations. It said through its press office: ″As a matter of policy we do not comment on allegations of intelligence activities.″

Nicaraguan State Security Chief Lenin Cerna identified the four alleged spies as:

-Benjamin Wickham, a native of Ohio and the embassy’s former first secretary, who left Nicaragua in August.

-Stephen David Murchison, of Oklahoma, currently the first secretary.

-Bradley Cecil Johnson, of Oregon, chief of the commercial section.

-Bonnie Sue Bennett, of Florida, a third secretary and vice consul until she left Nicaragua Dec. 20.

Cerna said Wickham and Murchison were named by one of three Nicaraguans arrested earlier this year on charges of spying for the CIA. It was not known on what basis the other Americans were named.

One of the three Nicaraguans, Reinaldo Aguado Montealegre, a second lieutenant in the Interior Ministry, was presented to journalists on Thursday. He claimed he had been recruited by Wickham and others last year while on a visit to Miami where his mother lives.

Aguado said that when he returned to Managua, he was given spying equipment and assigned to report on military plans to fight U.S.-supported rebels of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, currently fighting the leftist Sandinista government here.

Cerna displayed a camera disguised as a cigarette lighter and other equipment he said was captured from the three arrested Nicaraguans.

Aguado claimed he also had met with Murchison on various occasions but did not give details, adding he agreed to work for the CIA because his family was threatened with expulsion from the United States if he did not cooperate.

Aguado claimed he was paid $25,000 in Miami and another $5,500 a month was paid to his mother in Miami. He said the CIA agreed to take him out of Nicaragua immediately if he appeared to be in danger.

Aguado was arrested March 4.

Another second lieutenant at the Interior Ministry, Jose Eduardo Trejos Silva and his wife, Rosalina Soza, were arrested Feb. 19 on similar charges.

Cerna gave no details about the alleged spying activities of Bennett or Johnson but said he would provide information soon.

Two years ago, the state security police accused American diplomats of being behind a plot to kill Foreign Minister Miguel d’Escoto with a bottle of poisoned liquor.

At least two embassy officials were expelled, and the Reagan administration retaliated by closing Nicaraguan consulates in the United States.

Cerna claimed that CIA agents within the embassy are in constant contact with conservative political parties here.

P-PX-03-13-86 2024EST

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