You know him as a prominent Rochester DWI lawyer but in 1990 the Soviets thought he was a spy

[anvplayer video=”5128363″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A lot of you know or recognize Ed Fiandach. He’s one of the most prominent DWI lawyers in Rochester. Now, he is sharing a story none of us have ever heard before.

It’s about him getting arrested in Soviet Russia, suspected of being an American spy.

Fiandach says he used to tell this story as a joke. But then he watched the case of American basketball player Brittney Griner, sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for having an amount of drugs that might not even get her a ticket in New York.

And all of a sudden that joke became a serious story.

In 1990, Ed Fiandach was with his late wife touring the Soviet Union just before it broke up. Fiandach says he was showering in their dingy Moscow hotel.

“My late wife knocks on the door and said the police are here for you,” Fiandach said. “And I said what do they want? And she said ‘they want you.'”

Fiandach says he was handcuffed and driven around Moscow for almost an hour before he was put into a windowless room in a rundown building.

“I’m still in handcuffs and they start questioning me.”

Fiandach thought he was in trouble for trading packs of Marlboro cigarettes for pins of Vladimir Lenin. But then came the question that changed everything.

“After about an hour or an hour and a half, something like that, one of them said to me, he goes, ‘what is your interest in the Soviet space program?'” Fiandach said.
Fiandach — who is a history and space buff — says at the hotel bar the night before his arrest, he struck up a conversation with a soviet space engineer.

Now, in handcuffs, he suddenly realized the Russians thought he was a spy. And the only lawyer he had access to was himself.

“I remember one of the first things that crossed my mind is I’m never going to see my wife again. I didn’t kiss her goodbye when I left the hotel.”

Fiandach recalls getting on his knees to pray when his interrogators left the room.

Brean: “You used to tell this story as a joke.”

Fiandach: “I did.”

Brean: “And you don’t now.”

Fiandach: “No.”

Brean: You’re dead serious about it now. Why?

Fiandach: “Seeing Ms. Griner situation, I’m saying to myself how horrible this really could have been. The emotion that really comes to the top for me is what has to be an unbelievable feeling of helplessness that there’s nothing she can do, there’s nothing anybody can do. You’re just being driven by events and being shunted down a pathway, if you will, with no control over your life and events, it’s got to be a terrifying experience.”

Fiandach says his interrogation lasted more than four hours.

He says he was finally able to convince them that he was friendly American lawyer with a keen interest in space going back to sputnik.

Fiandach says they kept the handcuffs on, drove him back to the hotel and in a thick Russian accent simply told him to “go.”