It turns out that Cynthia Murphy, one of the 11 people accused of being members of a “deep cover” spy ring for Russia, is a certified financial planner – and a member of the New York chapter of the Financial Planning Association.

Ms. Murphy, 35, lived in Montclair, N.J., and worked at Morea Financial Services in downtown Manhattan. She purportedly put the office to good use. She allegedly collected information about the financial markets while at her office, relaying the information to her home country. Law enforcement officials also claim Ms. Murphy used her office to meet clients whom she could pump for information.

In a court hearing July 1, 2010, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz told U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis that the “evidence against Cynthia Murphy is devastating,” Bloomberg News reported.

Lynn Brackpool, director of communications for the Financial Planning Association, said that no one she has spoken with knew Ms. Murphy. She confirmed that Ms. Murphy has been a member since 2006, but had not been very active and was believed not to have attended any meetings since at least 2008.

The association took the precaution, to protect the profession and other members, of taking Ms. Murphy off any publicly-facing databases as soon as they heard of the allegations, Ms. Brackpool said. “No one’s wanting to rush to judgment, because everyone’s entitled to the process,” Ms. Brackpool said. “But it’s just a delicate situation.”

The CFP Board of Standards is also being similarly cautious not to rush to judgment, and not to circumvent its normal procedures, said Michael Shaw, managing director, professional standards & legal, for the CFP Board. Ms. Murphy has been a CFP certificant in New York City since February 2005, Dan Drummond, a spokesman for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., confirmed last week.

Even faced with such extraordinary allegations, the CFP Board will stick with its normal disciplinary processes, Mr. Shaw said. “We just believe in treating all of our certificants fairly,” he said. “We have a process in place, and we follow it for every single allegation.”

He could not comment on the specifics of Ms. Murphy’s case, citing confidentiality concerns and CFP Board policies, but he explained that any CFP certificant who is convicted of a serious crime; is subject to a professional suspension; steals property or funds from clients; engages in conduct which poses immediate threat to the public; or which impinges on the stature and reputation of the CFP marks may be subject to interim suspension, after certain periods of time.

He added that the CFP Board vets its candidates “rigorously,” but none of the questions they ask could have caught an alleged Russian spy. “For that kind of alleged conduct, as rigorous is as our process is, we would not have known about that,” Mr. Shaw said.

Seems like everyone was surprised by the Murphys, including their neighbors and coworkers. On July 1, 2010, Judge Ellis denied Ms. Murphy’s request for bail, while granting it to another defendant, according to Bloomberg. Mr. Ellis said Ms. Murphy and her husband, Richard, pose a flight risk, and added that there’s too much uncertainty about their identities. The Murphys carry Irish passports.

“The court just doesn’t know who these defendants are, Judge Ellis said. “The government’s evidence is strong. The defendants are trained agents of a foreign government. They have used false identities. When all is said and done, the question if they have community ties does not have an answer.”

Barbara Morea, president of Morea Financial, was not available for an interview. But the Star-Ledger in New Jersey reported that Ms. Morea was stunned by the revelations about her employee, who also had an MBA from Columbia University, and a finance and international business degree from New York University,

“She was a very good employee and a terrific mom,” Ms. Morea told the Star-Ledger. “I am in total shock.”

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