Vadim Konoshchenok, one of seven people to be charged with smuggling U.S. technology into Russia, was arrested in Estonia on Dec. 6., and is expected to be extradited to the United States. Photo courtesy of U.S. Justice Department
Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Five Russians, a U.S. citizen and a New Hampshire resident have been indicted on charges of smuggling millions of dollars' worth of American-made military and dual-use technology to Russia's military, defense sector and research institutions.
The 16-count indictment charges the group of seven as being part of the so-called Serniya procurement network, which federal prosecutors say is operated under the direction of Russian intelligence to acquire sensitive military and dual-use materials, including advanced semiconductors, quantum computing testing equipment and hypersonic and nuclear weapons technology.
The illicit procurement network is believed to be headed by Russia's wholesale machinery and equipment company Serniya Engineering to gain the sensitive technology for state-owned defense conglomerates, atomic and nuclear research agencies and the ministry of defense, among others.
"The industries that these illegal transfers could support ... pose great danger in the hands of our adversaries," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.
The United States had previously targeted the illicit network, and sanctioned it in late March following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Biden administration officials have accused the network of being instrumental to the Kremlin's "war machine."
The indictment, announced Tuesday by the Justice Department but unsealed a day prior, accuses the seven defendants of conspiring within the Serniya Network to smuggle sensitive technology from U.S. manufacturers in New York and elsewhere since at least 2017.
Prosecutors said the defendants layered transactions through a variety of front companies and bank accounts worldwide in order to have U.S. companies sell products in violation of national security export laws.
The indictment details how the septuplet caused the U.S. companies to ship items to domestic and European locations that match fictitious addresses assigned to Serniya Network shell companies.
"Items were repackaged and reshipped to several intermediate locations in Europe and Asia before arriving in Russia," the charging document states, naming Estonia, Finland, Germany and Hong Kong as common shipping points.
Alexey Brayman, a 35-year-old lawful U.S. permanent residence of New Hampshire and an Israeli citizen, and U.S. citizen Vadim Yermolenko, 41, have been arrested by U.S. authorities.
Prosecutors have asked the court to set a bail at $250,000 for Brayman and $500,000 for Yermolneko and to confiscate their passports as they present flight risks and have significant ties to non-extradition countries.
Defendant Vadim Konoshchenok, a suspected officer with Russia's Federal Security Service, was arrested in Estonia where he lived on Dec. 6. and is expected to be extradited to the United States.
Prosecutors said Konoshchenok, 48, has shipped or smuggled U.S.-origin items from Estonia into Russia.
Court documents state that he attempted to smuggle weapons and technology as recently as Oct. 27 when he was stopped by Estonia police with 35 different types of semiconductors and electric components.
Hidden in his vehicle were found thousands of 6.5mm rounds manufactured by a Nebraska firearms company, prosecutors said. The sniper rifle rounds were sold from the United States to Germany, Finland, Luxembourg and Latvia, according to documents, which do not disclose that they were to be re-exported to Russia.
Following Konoshchenok's arrest earlier this month, Estonian authorities also searched a warehouse under the name of his son, discovering some 375 pounds of ammunition.
The remaining Russia-residing defendants -- Aleksey Ippolitov, 57; Yevgeniy Grinin, 44; Svetlana Skvortsova, 41; and Boris Livshits, 52 -- remain at large.
"With three of the defendants now in custody, we have disrupted the procurement network allegedly used by the defendants and Russian intelligence services to smuggle sniper rifle ammunition and sensitive electronic components into Russia," Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
"The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce our economic sanctions and export controls against those who enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war in Ukraine."
If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years' imprisonment.