Five Russian citizens and two U.S. nationals were charged by federal prosecutors on Tuesday with conspiring to illegally obtain and ship millions of dollars worth of American-made, military-grade technology to Russia before and after its invasion of Ukraine this year.
The case, described in an indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, accuses the seven defendants of acting on behalf of two Moscow companies, Serniya Engineering and Sertal LLC, that prosecutors say operate under the direction of Russia’s intelligence services.
Starting in at least 2017, the indictment says, the defendants used a global network of shell companies and bank accounts to acquire and ship advanced electronics and equipment to Russia that can be used for “quantum computing, hypersonic and nuclear weapons development and other military and space-based military applications.”
Among those items, according to the indictment, were a “chip set” of 45 advanced semiconductors; a $45,000 “low noise cesium frequency synthesizer”; high-quality spectrum analyzers used in electronic testing; and pricey oscilloscopes and signal generators. Many are so-called dual-use devices that can be employed for military or civilian purposes.
The illicit activities continued after the United States imposed sanctions against Serniya, Sertal and one of the defendants, Yevgeniy Grinin, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, according to the Justice Department.
When it announced the sanctions, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said those being targeted were “instrumental to the Russian Federation’s war machine.” Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, echoed that language in announcing the charges on Tuesday.
“Our office will not rest in its vigorous pursuit of persons who unlawfully procure U.S. technology to be used in furtherance of Russia’s brutal war on democracy,” Mr. Peace said.
In addition to Mr. Grinin, a 47-year-old Moscow resident, the Justice Department identified the defendants as Alexey Ippolitov, 57, of Moscow; Boris Livshits, 52, a former Brooklyn resident now living in St. Petersburg, Russia; Svetlana Skvortsova, 41, of Moscow; Vadim Konoshchenok, 48, of Tallin, Estonia; Alexey Brayman, 35, of Merrimack, N.H.; and Vadim Yermolenko, 41, of Upper Saddle River, N.J.
The defendants face various conspiracy, fraud and money laundering counts, and could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison apiece if convicted of the most serious charges. Four of them remain at large.
Mr. Yermolenko, an American citizen, and Mr. Brayman, a permanent U.S. resident identified in court filings as an Israeli citizen, were arraigned on Tuesday.
Mr. Brayman was released on a $150,000 bond and subject to conditions that included turning in his passports and wearing an electronic monitoring device. “Like all defendants, Mr. Brayman is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” said his lawyer, David Lazarus.
Mr. Yermolenko was released after posting a $500,000 bond partially secured by his house. Nora Hirozawa, a lawyer for Mr. Yermolenko at his arraignment, declined to comment.
Mr. Konoschenok, who the U.S. authorities believe is an officer in Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, was arrested in Estonia last week and is awaiting extradition proceedings, according to prosecutors. Estonian authorities found 375 pounds of U.S.-made ammunition in a search of a warehouse he has used, the Justice Department said.
Glenn Thrush contributed reporting.