Russian bombshell Anna Chapman was splashed across front pages after she was arrested as part of the spy ring. But when Scott Beauchamp saw her picture, he recognized the woman who’d interviewed him for a marketing job. He recalls what she was really like—and their Gchats.
It’s entirely possible that Moscow has a file on me. I imagine some Russian intelligence analyst flipping through papers with his nicotine stained fingers: “Scott Beauchamp who claims to be a hard worker with excellent task management skills, studied English at the University of Missouri and has only modest salary requirements. His experience as an enlisted soldier in the Army has made him into a very self-motivated team player who thrives on work place diversity...” It would probably go on to list places of past employment and a few professional references. If my secret dossier reads exactly like a cover letter and résumé, that’s because it would be. Because I was interviewed by a Russian bombshell spy.
• Full coverage of the Russian spy ring This past March, after having spent a month on the couch decompressing from my tempestuous four and a half years in the Army, I decided it was time to find some type of gainful employment. It could have been anything. I just needed a way to pay for groceries until school started. And only one site on the Internet provides the part-time foot model, Nerf fetish, and egg-donation jobs that are essential for a combat veteran who’s trying to reintegrate into normal society: Craigslist. I cast my net wide and then narrowed the possibilities down to one.
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It was actually the most normal-appearing job posting, a real-estate website that wanted college-age kids to do some marketing on the cheap. There was no overt evidence that the job listing had been placed by Putin. I hadn’t searched for “internships with hot Russian spies in the Manhattan area.” The only thing slightly sketchy about the job was its location, in the Financial District. But just because someone is based in a neighborhood of criminals shouldn’t make them guilty by association. So I emailed my résumé to Anna Chapman and asked for an interview.
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• Julia Ioffe: Russia Is Laughing at Us The building we met in was residential, and after a little mix-up over the interview location (she had only given me the floor number), we finally sat down in a quiet corner of the lounge area and began the interview. And this is where I have to admit something a little embarrassing: Nothing very interesting happened. Despite Miss Chapman’s Slavic good looks, she seemed just as awkward and self-conscious as any other 20-something. There was nothing out of the ordinary. She didn’t ask me for the maximum effective range of a 25 millimeter Bushmaster Cannon. She didn’t ask me if I felt comfortable working in a non-legal, Russian-friendly environment. There were no bags of cash exchanged. She didn’t once use a radio transmitter, and I never asked her if she was a Bond girl. All in all, it was rather boring. She mostly talked about Pay Per Click software and online advertising, and then told me that she would get back to me in a few weeks. Before she did, I was hired somewhere else.
• Philip Shenon: The Spy Ring’s Ripple Effects But I did invite her to chat with me on Google Talk. I think I probably could have been hired by Miss Chapman had I waited, and so I felt like maintaining a contact—not in a foreign agent kind of way—with the company, just in case. We never really talked online, but she did send me a few incredibly boring PDFs about marketing strategies, which I barely even skimmed. And she remained my chat contact. Every day, I would see her gTalk tagline, usually something cheesy about inspiration or creativity, and her gTalk icon, as well. Now imagine my surprise when I walked past the newsstand the morning after 11 people were arraigned on charges of acting as unregistered foreign agents, and saw that same picture. I did a double take. I knew that face. That face had interviewed me only a few months ago!
I immediately called my wife, whose first response was, “You didn’t tell me that she was hot!” And too bad for Anna Chapman that she is, because now she gets to be the poster girl for this whole sordid story: invisible ink, money laundering, code names, fake passports, and being watched by the FBI for 10 years without even realizing it. So Anna might have failed miserably at being a spy, but she achieved the much less elusive goal of American celebrity. She even got a snarky front-page headline in the New York Post. And now I have a connection to it all, too. Thank you, Craigslist!
Scott Beauchamp is a writer living in New York. He spent 25 months in Iraq as an infantryman and has written for Deadspin, Attackerman, The New Republic, and One Year in Texas.