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House of secrets: Former home of Russian spies for sale in New Jersey

Rich Schultz / AP

The Montclair, N.J. house where Russian spies Richard and Cynthia Murphy, a.k.a., Vladimir and Lydia Guryev, used to live is seen in June 2010.

I spy a deal.

A house whose last owners were a couple of uber-secret Russian spies has gone on sale in Montclair, NJ nearly three years after FBI agents took Richard and Cynthia Murphy – real names Vladimir and Lydia Guryev – away in cuffs.

“Yeah, the spy cases are unusual, but we do sell a lot of real estate from other federal crimes,” said Lynzey Donahue, a spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service. The sale comes after a default judgment in a federal civil case that ordered the marshals to sell the property.

The Guryevs blended in easily with their Upper Montclair neighbors – at least until they were rounded up along with 8 other undercovers, including one stunning redhead, who had passed themselves off as ordinary Janes and Joes. The Guryevs and their comrades were traded back to Russia in a spy swap.

An online listing by Fast Track Real Estate doesn’t give any hint of the Cold War-era colonial’s cloak-and-dagger past. “This Needs Repair,” the listing for the 4-bedroom, 1-1/2 bath house says. It’s listed for $444,900, and proceeds from the sale will go to the Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund.

Real estate website Zillow.com said the house sold for $481,000 in 2008.

Realtor Marie Kahvajian said she was not permitted to give any information on the home.

Property records maintained by the New Jersey Association of County Tax Boards still show the house at 31 Marquette Road as belonging to Richard and Cynthia Murphy.

The news that the house was finally going up for sale came as a relief to neighborhood residents who were shocked years ago to find out they were living in a real-life spy thriller.

Neighbor Elizabeth Lapin told NBC that she has seen people standing outside the house and moving out furniture over the last two weeks. The house’s grass has been mowed, and tulips have begun to pop up outside the long-abandoned property, she said.

The house became “really depressing to look at,” said Lapin, who lives a few houses away. Her son used to play with the Guryev’s two young daughters. “Because they left it vacant for so long, in my mind as a neighbor a few houses away, it left in my mind a question about whether this was over.”

“I guess I wonder whether we should be digging in the backyard to find buried treasure,” Lapin said.

Norma Skolnik, who lives down the block, said neighbors kept the lawn trimmed for the first year the house was vacant, but it started to become an eyesore after that, she said.

“Up until just a few days ago nothing has gone on there,” Skolnik said. “The house is just covered with placards that say ‘No Trespassing’ and other government signs. So nothing has been going on until very recently.”

While other residents of the New Jersey commuter town may settle there for the good schools and a nice yard, the Guryevs – or the Murphys – seem to have wanted nothing more than to blend in. Court documents filed in their case lay out the mission given to agents by their masters back in Moscow.

“You were sent to USA for long-term service trip,” read one message from the super-spies’ handlers, according to a complaint filed in New York in 2010. “Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc – all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles and send intels [intelligence reports] to C[enter].”