Served as a yeoman first class at the U.S. Naval Headquarters in London, England in the mid-1950’s. Worked as a clerk and had access to top secret documents and received NATO and “Cosmic” clearance.
Was a heavy drinker and often found himself in financial difficulties due to heavy gambling debts. Was approached one evening in a tavern by a KGB agent who offered to by him a drink. Nelson Cornelius Drummond accepted and the agent continued buying drinks all night. The agent later asked the drunken Drummond if he would obtain a Naval identification card for the agent, for use at the Naval Exchange store. Drummond agreed and accepted $250 for his efforts, signing a receipt slip for having received the cash.
Drummond was immediately blackmailed, with the KGB threatening to show the receipt to Naval authorities if he refused to cooperate in turning over documents to them. Drummond did as the demanded, supplying the Russians with sensitive documents in return for payments of cash.
He was transferred to Mobile Electronic Technical Unit at the Naval Station in Newport, Rhode Island in the the United States in 1958. He continued supplying to the Soviets from his numerous ports of travel (at various times he was stationed in Norfolk , Virginia, Boston, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island). Many of these documents included training and operating manuals, a large number of which he stole from the Newport Naval Base (the information he passed concerned naval weapons systems and antisubmarine electronics. He turned these documents over to Russian diplomats working out of the United Nations.
Continued his espionage activities until early in 1960 when a CIA informant, Soviet Major General, and high-ranking GRU officer Dmitriy Polykov identified him as a spy. The FBI received the information but didn’t want to blow Polyakov’s covers so they set up surveillance on Drummond and ended up following on trips to New York. He returned from these trips flush with cash. Drummond was seized by FBI agents outside of a diner in Larchmont, NY in which he had met with a Soviet United Nations Delegates Evgeni Prokhorav and Ivan Vyrodov. Authorities discovered 11 classified documents and a miniature camera concealed in the trunk of Drummond’s car. Drummond made a full confession, estimating that he had receive upwards of $20,000 over the period of time. His activities cost the United States more than $200 million, the cost of replacing and revising the documents, manuals and plans he had turned over to the KGB.
Th Miami News reported that Drummond had recently purchased the Havana Bar & Grill in Newport, Rhode Island as well as two cars. He was also in scrapes with the law in 1960 and 1961 with brought him more unwanted attention.
His first trial resulted in a hung jury but he was re-tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the first Black American ever convicted of espionage.