U.S. prosecutors announced criminal charges on Tuesday against five Russians and two American nationals suspected of operating a network to obtain sensitive U.S. technologies and ammunition for Russia’s military.
The so-called Serniya network was allegedly involved in buying and shipping millions of dollars in military and dual-use technologies from the U.S. to Russia since at least 2017, according to a 16-count indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
The network was run by two Moscow-based companies that operated under the direction of Russia’s intelligence services: Serniya Engineering and Sertal LLC. The companies were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Three of the seven defendants, including U.S. nationals Alexey Brayman and Vadim Yermolenko and Russian national Vadim Konoshchenok, are in custody, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Konoshchenok, who is suspected of being an officer of the Russian intelligence service FSB, was detained by Estonian authorities last week at the request of the United States and is awaiting extradition, the Justice Department said.
In October and November, he had been stopped at the Estonian-Russian border carrying thousands of U.S.-made bullets used in sniper rifles.
The four other defendants remain at large. They were identified as Yevgeniy Grinin, Aleksey Ippolitov, Boris Livshits and Svetlana Skvortsova.
Top Justice Department and FBI officials announced the charges.
“The Department of Justice and our international partners will not tolerate criminal schemes to bolster the Russian military’s war efforts,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “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.”
Added FBI Director Christopher Wray, “The industries that these illegal transfers could support — quantum computing, hypersonic weapons — pose great danger in the hands of our adversaries.”
The investigation into the network was coordinated by Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement initiative launched in March in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We will continue the steady pace of seizures, indictments and arrests while the Kremlin is shopping for spare parts in North Korea,” Andrew Adams, director of Task Force KleptoCapture, said in a statement.
According to the indictment, Konoshchenok, the suspected FSB officer arrested in Estonia, allegedly shipped or physically smuggled U.S.-origin dual-use electronics, military-grade tactical ammunition and other export-controlled items from the Baltic nation to Russia.
In October, Konoshchenok was stopped at the Estonian border with 35 different types of semiconductors and other electronic components, as well as thousands of U.S.-made 6.5 mm bullets used in military sniper rifles, according to the indictment.
In late November, he was again stopped at the Russian-Estonian border with approximately 20 cases containing thousands of U.S.-origin bullets, including tactical rounds and .338 military sniper rounds, according to the indictment.
The defendants face charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States regarding the enforcement of export controls and economic sanctions; conspiracy to violate the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA); smuggling; and failure to comply with the Automated Export System relating to the transportation of electronics.
If convicted of bank fraud or bank fraud conspiracy, the defendants face a maximum of 30 years in prison.