Eleven suspected members of a secret high-tech procurement network for Russian military and intelligence agencies that has allegedly operated in the United States since 2008 were charged with conspiracy in an indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday.
The "surreptitious and systematic" conspiracy, prosecutors said, circumvented government export controls to acquire and transfer through Kennedy Airport microelectronics with military uses for radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance and detonation triggers.
"The defendants spun an elaborate web of lies to evade the laws that protect our national security," said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. They "tried to take advantage of America's free markets to steal American technologies for the Russian government."
A spokesman at the Russian Embassy in Washington said officials there were aware of the charges, but had no comment.
The alleged leader of the ring, Alexander Fishenko, 46, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who became a U.S. citizen in 2003, was arrested in Houston along with seven other defendants. They are expected to be extradited to Brooklyn. Three other defendants are in Russia and have not been detained, officials said.
The government also indicted two companies. One was Arc Electronics, a Houston company that prosecutors say Fishenko used to acquire and export analog-to-digital converters, memory chips, microcontrollers and microprocessors and other items not produced domestically in Russia. Arc allegedly exported about $50 million in components to Russia.
The government said it had evidence linking the exports to the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Federal Security Service. But Arc, the indictment said, told American suppliers that items were not intended for export, and said that it was involved in nonsensitive businesses such as manufacturing traffic lights.
To get export licenses for components, the company allegedly also lied about their intended use. In one example, prosecutors contend, a conspirator told a colleague to falsify a certificate about the purpose of an export of a maritime item to "make sure that those are fishing boats, and not fishing/anti-submarine ones . . . Then we'll be able to start working."
In addition to conspiracy, the defendants face charges of violating export control laws and obstruction of justice. Fishenko also is charged with money laundering and acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.