Reputed Russian spy ring busted for smuggling tech out of JFK
The FBI rounded up members of a secret Russian military and intelligence network Wednesday, who allegedly operated an exporting firm that illegally shipped high tech items out of JFK Airport.
The ring, which has been operating in the U.S. since 2008, was charged with conspiracy in an indictment unsealed in Brooklyn federal court.
Eight of the 11 defendants were arrested in Houston and are awaiting extradition to New York.
The "surreptitious and systematic" plot circumvented government export controls to ship microelectronics that could be put to military uses for radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance and detonation triggers, prosecutors said.
"The defendants spun an elaborate web of lies to evade the laws that protect our national security," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
The alleged ringleader, Alexander Fishenko, 46, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who became a U.S. citizen in 2003, created "Arc Electronics" which sold analog-to digital converters, memory chips, microprocessors and other electronics that are not produced in Russia.
He also was president of a Russian-based firm that procured the exported items from the U.S.
To get the illegal tech through JFK to Russia, Arc claimed to its American suppliers that it was manufacturing streetlights and didn't disclose that it was an exporter.
The ring went to great lengths to conceal their illegal operation, including submitting false information about the users, one of whom who may have been the Russian Ministry of Defense, according to prosecutors.
"Make it up pretty, correctly and make sure it looks good," Fishenko told members of his Russian organization when they asked how to fake end user information.
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.
Authorities said it is unclear what the Russian government and businesses did with the technology that Fishenko and his associates provided them with, but they are investigating whether it was used to enhance Russia's naval weapons systems.