Sept. 14 (UPI) -- A Belarusian citizen living in Miami has agreed to forfeit nearly $5 million and pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to purchase metal goods from a sanctioned oligarch.
Before U.S. Magistrate Judge Embry Kidd in an Orlando, Fla., court room, Sergey Karpushkin, 46, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count each of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Power Act and to commit money laundering, each of which are punishable with up to five years' imprisonment.
As part of the plea, he has also agreed to hand over $4.7 million in proceeds he earned as part of the conspiracy.
Karpushkin was charged in an indictment unsealed in April for being involved in a three-year conspiracy during which he, along with at least one other co-conspirator, purchased more than $139 million in metal products, such as pig iron, steel billets and wire rods, from companies owned by 37-year-old Ukrainian oligarch Sergey Kurchenko.
Kurchenko was designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 over connections to the deposed pro-Russia Ukrainian government of disgraced President Viktor Yanukovych, the misappropriation of public assets and the undermining of democratic processes in Ukraine.
In the EU's sanctioning note from April last year, the 27-member bloc accuses Kurchenko of having taken control of several large metallurgical, chemical and energy locations in separatist-held areas of Ukraine with the support of pro-Russia separatists.
He also owns the largest oil depot on the Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula, where the EU said he strengthened independent power suppliers.
Court documents state that Karpushkin and his co-conspirator used Florida-based Metalhouse LLC to enter into contracts with Kurchenko's businesses and intentionally concealed from U.S. banks and government officials the source and origin of the metal goods they acquired.
His co-conspirator was named in the indictment unsealed in April as Metalhouse president John Van Unsalan, who has been charged with one count of conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, 10 counts of violating IEEPA, one count of conspiring to commit international money laundering and 10 counts of international money laundering.
The investigation was conducted through the Justice Department's Task Force KleptoCapture, which was launched in March 2022 to enforce sanctions, export controls and other punitive measures imposed by the United States and democratic allies against oligarchs and their companies in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.