Washington Seeks Answers After American Arrested In Russia On Spy Charges

mike pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- American Paul Whelan is in custody in Russia, accused of espionage. There are a lot of questions about the charges--as well as a local angle.

Whelan is a former Marine from Michigan, whose family says he was in Russia for a friend's wedding when he was arrested on spy charges. He's the head of global security for an auto parts company, and has also visited Russia multiple times for business.

A Russian news agency claims he was caught with a classified list of Russian operatives.

Whelan's sister, Elizabeth, is an artist in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. She declined a request with WBZ NewsRadio for an interview, but referred us to Paul's brother, David, who has said Paul is not a spy.

"I can't think of any plausible reason that Paul was arrested in Russia," David Whelan told ABC News. "He has a law enforcement background, he was a former U.S. Marine, who served a number of tours in Iraq, he does corporate security. It's the sort of personality that you wouldn't expect to be a law breaker of any sort, let alone someone who's breaking spy laws."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seeking answers from Moscow.

"If the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return," Pompeo told reporters.

Depending on the charges, if Whelan is convicted of being a spy, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

WBZ NewsRadio's Ben Parker (@radiobenparker) reports

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