A former Army Ranger turned judge advocate was arrested Aug. 12 in Arkansas for threatening two women who knew of his attempts to contact the Russian embassy in Washington and delete Army records, according to an unsealed criminal complaint.
The FBI agent who authored the complaint indicated that the soldier may have contacted the Russians after he became “disgruntled” with the Army, though there’s no indication from court records that the Kremlin took the advance seriously.
Manfredo Madrigal III, 36, allegedly attempted to remove the National Security Law Primer training module from the computer system at the Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the night spanning Feb. 6 and 7.
He filmed himself deleting the interactive module, according to the affidavit filed in support of the complaint against him. Then he sent the video to a former romantic partner identified in court filings as Victim 1, who also a JAG officer.
“You guys decide you’re going [to] throw me to the wayside, no, I don’t think so… You aren’t going to take my knowledge and use it against me… You have nothing,” he said in the video, concluding the last sentence with an expletive-laden phrase, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit did not make clear why Madrigal was upset. But it is possible he was reacting to his impending discharge from the Army for not disclosing a prior arrest for a DUI.
That same night, per the affidavit, he texted Victim 1, “Ya, Russia has reached out to me,” and told her in a voicemail that he was “going to Russia tomorrow.” He texted her on Feb. 17, “The Russians in DC reached out to me, they would like to know what I know.”
Phone records show that Madrigal received no incoming calls from the Russian embassy, the affidavit says. But he did make an outgoing call to the embassy in the early hours of Feb. 7 that lasted two and a half minutes.
He later claimed to the FBI that the Russian embassy had contacted him in late January or early February asking him for information about the war in Ukraine.
An FBI agent who investigated the case cast doubt on Madrigal’s account.
“I assess it would be highly irregular and improbable for a representative of a hostile foreign government to make an unsolicited, ‘cold-call’ to a United States Government employee to seek intelligence of value,” FBI Special Agent Matthew Rader wrote in the affidavit.
“I also know from previous counterintelligence investigations that when United States Government employees have become disgruntled with their employer or the actions of the United States that some have attempted to contact hostile foreign intelligence services at diplomatic establishments, such as a foreign embassy in the United States and overseas, to volunteer information of value,” Rader added.
The Russian embassy did not respond to a request for comment made by Army Times.
In the paperwork he filed while being discharged from the Army in February, Madrigal claimed to have had no contact with a foreign national while assigned to the JAG School, according to the affidavit.
Madrigal allegedly threatened Victim 1 and another former romantic partner, identified as Victim 2. Court records indicate Madrigal was pressuring at least one of them to keep quiet about his attempted contact with Russia and his deletion of the JAG training module.
Madrigal told Victim 1 he was bad-mouthing her to her superiors, sent her a photo of an assault rifle and emailed her sexually explicit photos of her taken without her consent, the affidavit alleges. He also allegedly logged into her online fertility tracker without her consent to keep tabs on her sexual activity, and mocked her for a negative pregnancy test recorded there.
In the days before the FBI interviewed Victim 2 in May, the affidavit says, Madrigal pressured her to lie about his alleged wrongdoing.
Victim 2 told the FBI in August that Madrigal had choked her, placed guns out in the open at her home and falsely informed her employer that she used drugs. According to Victim 2, he told her, “I could f***ing kill you if I wanted to.”
Madrigal was arrested on Aug. 9, during a fight with Victim 2 over her dogs at her home in Harrison, Arkansas, where they were residing together. Victim 2 told local police that Madrigal had smashed a wine bottle and held a gun to her head. Madrigal was then transported to federal custody to face charges of cyberstalking Victim 1.
Madrigal graduated from the University of Kansas Law School in 2019 before being assigned to the JAG School in Charlottesville. Before that, he was an enlisted soldier in various units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 82nd Airborne Division. He served multiple combat tours, according to the affidavit.
A lawyer for Madrigal, David Benowitz, did not respond to a request for comment made by Army Times.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia is prosecuting the case.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.