U.S. goes after alleged pack of Russian agents sending military high-tech to Russia

The U.S. government yesterday busted what's alleged to be a Russian-agent ring disguised as a Texas-based company illegally transferring high-tech electronics to the Russian military.

"As alleged in the indictment, the defendants spun an elaborate web of lies to evade the laws that protect our national security. The defendants tried to take advantage of America's free markets to steal American technologies for the Russian government," said U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch in a statement concerning Alexander Fishenko, owner of Texas-based Arc Electronics and Moscow-based Apex System LLC. "But U.S. law enforcement detected, disrupted and dismantled the defendants' network."

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Working with the FBI, the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York yesterday indicted Fishenko and 11 others, accusing them of procuring sensitive high-tech micro-electronics desired by the Russian military and in violation of U.S. export laws, transferring the high-tech goods through several contacts to the Russian government, following instructions from Russia's federal security service, the FSB.

The U.S. believes Fishenko's operation to send high-tech goods to the Russian government included analog-to-digital converters, static random access memory chips, microcontrollers and microprocessors. "The receipt of U.S.-made, cutting-edge microelectronics has advanced Russia's military technological capabilities. NCIS and the Department of the Navy have worked closely with the FBI, the Dept. of Justice, and the Dept. of Commerce in this investigation due to the potential for significant enhancement of Russian naval weapons systems that would result from the illegal acquisition of these export-controlled technologies," said special agent in charge Timothy Reeves, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Central Field Office, in a statement.

The law enforcement agencies involved in the case are encouraging any business that was approached by anyone associated with Arc Electronics to obtain sensitive technology that didn't seem to be legitimate to report the information to businbessoutreach@leo.gov, saying it would be kept confidential.

The defendants in the case face trial, and if convicted, Fishenko faces a maximum term of 20 years for money laundering and 10 years for acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email: emessmer@nww.com.

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