Eleven members of an alleged secret Russian military procurement network have been charged in the United States with illegally shipping sophisticated microelectronics to Russian military and intelligence agencies, according to a federal indictment unsealed in US District Court on Wednesday.
The US FBI arrested the alleged ringleader, 46-year-old Alexander Fishenko, and seven others Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. They also executed search warrants at seven residences and business locations and seized assets from five bank accounts.
The US Department of Justice says it believes three other suspects who are still at-large are back in Russia.
The indictment charges that since 2008, Fishenko has been running an elaborate scheme that tricked US customs agents into believing that his company – Houston-based Arc Electronics, Inc. -- was manufacturing and shipping routine products to Russia.
Instead, the indictment charges, they were providing the Russian military with “controlled, sensitive technologies” that could be used for radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance systems or detonation triggers.
“The defendants spun an elaborate web of lies to evade the laws that protect our national security. The defendants tried to take advantage of America’s free markets to steal American technologies for the Russian government,” said United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch in a statement.
“We will not rest in our efforts to protect the technological advantage produced by American ingenuity. And, we will expose and hold responsible all who break our counter-proliferation laws, particularly those, like Fishenko, who serve foreign governments,” said Lynch.
If convicted, the defendants face prison terms of up to 65 years for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and violating federal commerce laws. Fishenko faces an additional 30 years behind bars for conspiracy to commit money laundering acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
Four suspects, including Fishenko, hold Russian citizenship, while the rest are citizens of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, officials at the Russian consulate in Houston said, adding that Russia would work to protect its ciziens implicated in the case.