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

March 14, 1986

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ The U.S. Embassy has refused to comment on allegations by Nicaragua’s state security chief that two former and two current embassy officials spied for the CIA.

″As a matter of policy we do not comment on allegations of intelligence activities,″ the embassy said in a statement issued Thursday.

Nicaraguan State Security Chief Lenin Cerna made the accusation Thursday, saying two of the Americans were named by one of three Nicaraguans arrested earlier this year on charges of spying for the American intelligence agency.

It was not known on what basis the other Americans were named.

Cerna identified the Americans he alleged to be 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; and Bonnie Sue Bennett, of Florida, a third secretary and vice consul until she left Nicaragua Dec. 20.

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

One of the three, a second lieutenant in the Interior Ministry who claims he was recruited by Wickham and others last year while visiting his mother at her home in Miami, was presented to journalists Thursday.

Reinaldo Aguado Montealegre 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.

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.

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