Earl Edwin Pitts

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This article describes Earl Pitts, the Russian spy. For the radio character, see Earl Pitts (radio character).
Earl Edwin Pitts
Born (1953-09-23) September 23, 1953 (age 65)
OccupationFBI special agent
Criminal statusReleased May 2019
Criminal charge18 U.S.C. § 794(a) and 794(c)[1] (Espionage Act)
PenaltySentenced to 27 years imprisonment
Imprisoned atReleased from Federal Correctional Institution, Ashland, Kentucky

Earl Edwin Pitts (born September 23, 1953) is a former FBI special agent who, in 1996, was arrested at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Pitts was charged with several offenses, including spying for the Soviet Union. In February 1997, he pleaded guilty to conspiring and attempting to commit espionage in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.[2]


On June 27, 1997, Earl Pitts was sentenced by a federal judge to 27 years in prison for spying for Moscow both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Prosecutors had requested only 24½ years. A former FBI agent, Pitts had been charged with selling U.S. intelligence secrets to the Russians for payments in excess of $224,000 from 1987 to 1992. The FBI learned of Pitts' spying through human intelligence. His KGB handler, Alexsandr Karpov, later defected to the United States and named Pitts as a Soviet mole in the FBI during his debriefings. Pitts was snared in a 16-month FBI sting that ended with his arrest while he was stationed at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI caught Pitts by convincing him that the Russian government wanted to reactivate him as a spy. Pitts offered his services to the Soviets in 1987 while he was assigned to the FBI's New York office where he was assigned to hunt and recruit KGB officers.

While working in the FBI New York office, Pitts had access to "a wide range of sensitive and highly classified operations" that included "recruitment operations involving Russian intelligence officers, double agent operations, operations targeting Russian intelligence officers, true identities of human assets, operations against Russian illegals, defector sources, surveillance schedules of known meet sites, internal policies, documents, and procedures concerning surveillance of Russian intelligence officers, and the identification, targeting, and reporting on known and suspected KGB intelligence officers in the New York area."[3]

During the late 1980s, Pitts met with a KGB source in multiple locations throughout New York City, including an airport and a public library. His relationship with the Russians lasted for five years. During this time period, he turned over information that included the name of an FBI agent who was working covertly on Russian intelligence matters. According to the FBI, Pitts received over $224,000 in income from KGB First Chief Directorate and after collapse of the Soviet Union the SVR sources.[4]

The FBI said Pitts also turned over a secret computerized FBI list of all Soviet officials in the United States with their known or suspected posts in Soviet intelligence agencies. Pitts was discovered after a Soviet defector identified him to the FBI and assisted the FBI in their sting operation. After the sting began, Pitts' ex-wife, Mary Columbaro Pitts, also a former FBI employee, told the FBI that she suspected her husband was a spy, though he never disclosed his status as a double agent to her. When he was convicted of espionage and asked why he engaged in that act, Pitts cited numerous grievances with the FBI and said he wanted to "pay them back". Pitts' plea bargain required him to submit to FBI debriefings. During one such debriefing in 1997, Pitts stated that he was not aware of any additional spies within the FBI, but he was suspicious of Robert Hanssen. The FBI did not act on Pitts' warning and Hanssen's espionage continued until 2001.

He is now at the Federal Correctional Institution, Ashland, in Kentucky.


Spy Seminar Series - What Makes Traitors Tick? - YouTube


  1. ^ "USA v. Robert Philip Hanssen: Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint, Arrest Warrant and Search Warrant". fas.org. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  2. ^ "Ex-FBI Agent Pitts Sentenced to 27 Years". CNN. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  3. ^ "FBI Special Agent, Earl Edwin Pitts, Arrested for Espionage". FAS. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2003-12-09. Retrieved 2003-10-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

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