Nearly a dozen people, including five Russian nationals and two oil brokers from Venezuela, were arrested and charged in a scheme to send American military technology to Russia, some of which was allegedly found on battlefields in Ukraine, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Federal prosecutors, with help from the department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, revealed two separate indictments Oct. 19. The task force was created earlier this year to enforce sanctions against the Russian elite.
“As I have said, our investigators and prosecutors will be relentless in their efforts to identify, locate, and bring to justice those whose illegal acts undermine the rule of law and enable the Russian regime to continue its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a release.
The charges come as the U.S. looks to crack down on Russia and its allies while the war in Ukraine continues into its eighth month.
In the first case, filed in the Eastern District of New York, Russian nationals Yury Orekhov and Svetlana Kuzurgasheva are charged with creating shell companies to illegally send military tech and oil to U.S.-sanctioned Russian buyers.
Orekhov and Kuzurgasheva used their fake German business to purchase a wide range of sensitive American military tech, including advanced semiconductors and microprocessors used in fighter aircraft, missile systems, smart munitions, radar, and satellites and other space-based military applications, according to the release.
The defendants allegedly caused U.S. banks to illegally process tens of millions of dollars to facilitate the transactions and sent the tech to Russians Timofey Telegin and Sergey Tulyakov, who are also being indicted.
Some of the electronic components obtained in the scheme were found in Russian weapons platforms seized in Ukraine, the release said.
In 2019, Orekhov also allegedly traveled to the U.S. to source parts used in a Russian-made fighter aircraft and the American-made F-22 Raptor.
Additionally, Orekhov and Artem Uss, who is the son of a Russian governor, allegedly used the fake business — with help from oil brokers Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce and Juan Carlos Soto — to smuggle hundreds of millions of barrels of oil to Russia and China from Venezuela.
Orekhov and Uss were arrested Monday in Germany and Italy, respectively, and are in the process of being extradited to the U.S., the release said. The U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned Orekhov and two of his companies on Oct. 19.
The defendants are charged with an array of counts, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. If convicted, they could face more than 30 years in prison.
In a related case, filed in the District of Connecticut, a group of Latvians and other foreign individuals are charged with conspiring to violate U.S. export laws and smuggle into Russia a machine called a jig grinder, which can be used in nuclear proliferation and defense programs.
The Latvians and others were arrested in Riga, Latvia, on Tuesday and are in the process of being extradited to the U.S., the release said.
“The FBI, along with our U.S. and international partners, will continue to aggressively disrupt the procurement of oil, laundered money, and unlawfully obtained military technology from U.S. companies to support Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in the release.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media