Russian, US nationals charged in elaborate war abetting machine on behalf of Kremlin

Prosecutors the defendants operated the sophisticated scheme at the direction of Russia's Federal Security Service

Five Russian nationals – including a suspected intelligence officer – and two others have been charged in an elaborate military procurement and money laundering scheme on behalf of the Russian government. 

The Justice Department on Monday unsealed a 16-count superseding indictment in Brooklyn charging the following individuals: Yevgeniy Grinin, 44, Aleksey Ippolitov, 57, Boris Livshits, 52, Svetlana Skvortsova, 41, and Vadim Konoshchenok, 48.

Alexey Brayman is a lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in New Hampshire, the DOJ says. 

Alexey Brayman is a lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in New Hampshire, the DOJ says.  (Facebook)

Konoshchenok, a suspected officer with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB, was arrested earlier this month in Estonia and will be extradited to the United States. The others charged remain at large, the Justice Department said.

Alexey Brayman, a lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in New Hampshire, and Vadim Yermolenko, a U.S. citizen residing in New Jersey were also arrested in connection with the scheme. 

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Prosecutors say the defendants were linked to two Moscow-based companies, Serniya Engineering and Sertal LLC, that operate under the direction of Russian intelligence to procure advanced electronics and testing equipment for the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex. 

The DOJ says both companies operated a global network of shell companies and bank accounts on behalf of the Russian government. The defendants unlawfully purchased and exported highly regulated electronic components – some of which can be used in nuclear weapons development and other military applications. 

The DOJ says Brayman and another New Jersey oversaw numerous shell companies and bank accounts in furtherance of the alleged scheme. 

The DOJ says Brayman and another New Jersey oversaw numerous shell companies and bank accounts in furtherance of the alleged scheme.  (Fox News)

The U.S. government sanctioned Serniya, Sertal, Grinin, and several other companies involved in the scheme after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Serniya’s network of clients included various state-owned defense conglomerates. 

Per Monday’s indictment, Sertal was licensed to conduct highly sensitive and classified procurement activities by the FSB. It alleges that Ippolitov received requests from officials, which he then relayed to Grinin and Skvortsova – both Sertal employees. 

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Grinin and Skvortsova secured funding and shipping routes for the transactions and tasked Livshits with procuring items from U.S. companies. Livshits oversaw various shell companies and bank accounts in the New York City area, which he used to route shipments and layer financial transactions in furtherance of the operations. 

The DOJ says Brayman and Yermolenko fabricated shipping documents and invoices, repackaged and reshipped items to destinations around the world that eventually arrived in Russia. The two also helped Livshits manage the aforementioned shell companies and bank accounts. 

The Grand Kremlin palace, left, and the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. 

The Grand Kremlin palace, left, and the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.  (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Prosecutors say Konoshchenok smuggled U.S.-origin items from Estonia into Russia. These included dual-use electronics, military-grade tactical ammunition and other export-controlled items. 

Estonian authorities stopped Konoshchenok at the Estonian border on Oct. 27, 2022. According to the indictment, he was found to be traveling with 35 different semiconductors, thousands of U.S.-made 6.5mm bullets, and other electronic components ordered by Livshits. 

Authorities stopped Konoshcenok again on Nov. 24, 2022 as he was attempting to cross into Russia with around 20 cases of U.S.-origin bullets, including tactical rounds and .338 military sniper rounds. 

After his arrest, Estonian authorities searched a warehouse used by Konoshcenok and recovered around 375 pounds worth of ammunition. 

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The defendants face a maximum of 30 years' imprisonment if convicted.