Novi man arrested in Russia, indicted for alleged espionage

Paul Whelan detained in Russia on spy accusations

It's gone from bad to worse -- Paul Whelan, the Novi man arrested in Russia for allegedly spying, has been indicted. 

ORIGINAL STORY: Detained US citizen Paul Whelan was in Moscow for a wedding, his brother say

Whelan's family has gone silent after speaking with Paul on Wednesday.

RELATED: Family of Novi man detained in Russia insist he's not a spy

It's not likely it's going to change much, because they found out officially that Whelan is looking at the possibility of facing 20 years in a Russian prison.

The Russians picked up the 48-year-old security officer for auto supplier BorgWarner on Dec. 28 and they claim he was part of a clandestine spy recruiting operation. 

RELATED: Michigan company releases statement regarding employee detained in Russia

According to the Soviet News Agency, Whelan was arrested in a hotel room after receiving a flash-drive that contained the classified names of Russian security employees. The drive was allegedly recovered in the hotel room.

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia visited Whelan in Lefortovo Prison, a historic prison used during the Cold War to detain political prisoners. 

Hedge-fund manager Bill Browder, who sparred with Russian President Vladimir Putin over corrupt business practices, spoke with WJR radio Thursday. He said Russian officials "just grabbed a plausible candidate to stick up on espionage charges."

Browder believes Maria Butina, a Russian who pleaded guilty to funneling Russian cash to the NRA, prompted the arrest.

RELATED: Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty to engaging in conspiracy against US

"He doesn't want her to testify, he wants her back in Russia, but he had no leverage to do that," Browder said. "I believe Paul Whelan has effectively been taken hostage to create a bargaining position for Putin to try to propose at some point a prisoner swap or spy swap."

Whelan has been appointed a Russian attorney. 

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