Five citizens of the Russian Federation were accused in the United States of illegally transporting ammunition and technology from America to Russia - ForumDaily
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Five citizens of the Russian Federation were accused in the United States of illegally transporting ammunition and technology from America to Russia

US Department of Justice stated that five Russian citizens, including an FSB officer and two US citizens, are accused of assisting the Russian military and intelligence services in evading sanctions.

Photo: IStock

According to the department, the defendants conspired to obtain military and dual-use technology from US companies for Russia's defense sector.

On December 12, an indictment was released in Brooklyn in which five Russian citizens — Yevgeny Grinin, Alexei Ippolitov, Boris Livshits, Svetlana Skvortsova, and Vadim Konoshchenko — were charged with conspiring to engage in a global procurement network and launder money on behalf of the Russian government.

Konoshenok, a suspected employee of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), was arrested in Estonia on December 6, 2022 and will be subject to extradition to the United States.

Grinin, Ippolitov, Livshits and Skvortsova remain at large. Estonian authorities searched the warehouse used by Konoshchenok and found American-made ammunition. Aleksey Bryman, a lawful permanent resident of the United States living in New Hampshire, and Vadim Yermolenko, a US citizen living in New Jersey, were also arrested and charged as part of a criminal scheme.

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The defendants were alleged to have been associated with OOO Sernia Engineering and OOO Sertal, both based in Moscow. These companies operate under the guidance of Russian intelligence agencies to procure advanced electronics and sophisticated test equipment for the Russian military-industrial complex and research and development sector. Sernia and Sertal operated an extensive network of front companies and bank accounts around the world, including the United States. Shell companies were used to promote the scheme to hide the involvement of the Russian government and true Russian end users of US-origin equipment.

“Defendants allegedly orchestrated a complex procurement network that illegally obtained secret American technology to support the Russian military machine,” US Attorney Peace said. "Our Office will not stop in its vigorous pursuit of individuals who illegally acquire American technology for use in Russia's brutal war on democracy."

The investigation found that the defendants illegally purchased and exported highly sensitive and highly regulated electronic components, some of which could be used in the development of nuclear and hypersonic weapons, quantum computing and other military purposes.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce (DOC) imposed sanctions against Sernia, Sertal, Yevgeny Grinin and several companies that were involved in the scheme. Several individuals were also targeted. Officials called them "a tool for the military machine of the Russian Federation."

According to the indictment, Sertal was licensed by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to carry out extremely secret purchases. Sernia's clients included State Corporation Rostec, a state-owned defense conglomerate; The State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and various units of the FSB, including the Military Counterintelligence Directorate and the Scientific and Technical Intelligence Directorate.

“The Department of Justice and our international partners will not tolerate criminal schemes to support the military efforts of the Russian military,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. Three of the accused are now in custody. In doing so, we disrupted a procurement network allegedly used by the defendants and the Russian intelligence services to smuggle sniper rifle ammunition and sensitive electronic components into Russia. The Justice Department will continue to actively enforce our economic sanctions and export controls against those who allow the Russian government to continue its unjust war in Ukraine.”

“By exposing munitions smuggling and the transfer of secret US technologies — from quantum computing to the development of hypersonic weapons — the Department of Justice is holding accountable those who fuel Russia’s illegal and unprovoked aggression in Ukraine,” the Deputy Attorney General said.

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“The powerful export controls we have put in place have successfully isolated Russia from the global economy,” said Axelrod, assistant head of trade for export control. "Today's coordinated action by the Department of Justice and Commerce demonstrates our vigilance in uncovering Russian tactics to illegally acquire the items they need to continue their brutal war."

According to the indictment, Ippolitov received requests from Russian end users and passed them on to Grinin and Skvortsova, who were both employees of Sertal. Grinin and Skvortsova provided funding and shipping routes, and instructed Livshits to purchase goods from American companies. Livshitz, a former resident of Brooklyn, New York, opened and controlled numerous shell companies and associated bank accounts in the New York area. He used the companies to route supplies and conduct financial transactions under this scheme. Livshitz also interacted directly with US companies—often under the pseudonym "David Wetzky"—and made false claims about how purchased goods would be used and about the end user.

The investigation revealed that while in the United States, Breiman and Yermolenko forged shipping documents and invoices, repackaged and reshipped goods to intermediate destinations around the world, including Estonia. Then the smuggling ended up in Russia. Yermolenko and Bryman also helped Livshits set up and manage dozens of shell companies and related bank accounts throughout the US.

Konoshchenok, who called himself an FSB “colonel”, himself smuggled American-made goods from Estonia to Russia, including dual-use electronics, military tactical ammunition and other items subject to export control.

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According to the indictment, on October 27, 2022, Konoschenok was stopped at the border with Estonia with 35 different types of semiconductors and other electronic components ordered by Livshits, as well as thousands of American-made 6,5 mm bullets.

On November 24, 2022, Konoshchenok was again stopped while trying to cross the Russian border with about twenty crates containing thousands of ammo of American origin, including tactical rounds and military sniper rounds.

After Konoshenok's arrest, the Estonian authorities searched the warehouse used by Konoshenok and seized ammunition there.

If convicted, the criminal gang faces up to 30 years in prison.

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