Members of a Russian spy ring arrested in the United States at the weekend used Irish names and false Irish passports.

One of the spies, American alias Richard Murphy, traveled in February this year to Rome to collect an Irish passport which bore the name Eunan Gerard Doherty and which had been issued in Dublin in July 2001.

He then flew on to Moscow and returned on March 3 with a mysterious laptop which he later tuned over to another Russian agent in New York

In order to get the Irish passport in Rome Murphy was told to would approach a Russian operative and ask, "Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999?"

"Yes indeed,” the answer should be. “I was in La Valetta, but in 2000.”

According to Moscow’s instructions, the stranger then slipped the spy a false Irish passport, for travel on to Russia.

The New York Times reports that "forged passports of several countries" were found among those who were arrested which may very well include Irish ones.

Ten people in all have been arrested with one other person being sought.

Three of those arrested used Irish names, Richard and Cynthia Murphy and Tracey Foley. They worked undercover for the SVR the Russian Republic's successor to the KGB.

The documents also detailed what the FBI called the “Illegals Program,” an ambitious, long-term effort by the S.V.R., the successor to the Soviet K.G.B., to plant Russian spies in the United States to collect information.

The FBI described the "Illegals" as being paired in Russia "so that they can live together and work together in a host country, under the guise of a married couple. Illegals who are placed together and cohabit in the country to which they are assigned will often have children together".

Richard and Cynthia Murphy appeared to be living a typical American middle class life in Montclair ,New Jersey a New York suburb.

The Murphy family had arrived less than 2 years ago and were quickly liked by the neighbors.

However their real purpose according to the FBI was very different.

The Feds displayed an intercepted message from headquarters in Moscow which the couple received.

It read:
"You were sent to the USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank account, car, house … all these serve one goal: fulfill your mission,"

In one intercepted message, Richard and Cynthia Murphy had to defend buying the house in New Jersey.

"We are under the impression that C.(headquarters) views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of our mission here," they said in an intercepted message. "We'd like to assure you that we do remember what it is. From our perspective, purchase of the house was solely a natural progression of our prolonged stay here. It was a convenient way to solve the housing issue, plus to 'do as the Romans do' in a society that values home ownership."

Court documents reveal that Cynthia Murphy had developed very close links with a very well connected New York financier and political contributor who was also very friendly with a key cabinet member.

And there are also allegations of fabricated Canadian passports, Irish and Latino surnames, and fake college diplomas.