Some of the components that the Montrealers obtained through front companies later ended up in advanced Russian weapons systems and spying equipment found on battlefields in Ukraine, according to Breon Peace, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Peace unsealed a criminal complaint that identified the two Montrealers who were charged in the case as Nikolay Goltsev, 37, and Kristina Puzyreva, 32.
A third Russian man, Salimdzhon Nasriddinov from New York, was also charged.
“These defendants are alleged to have illegally exported millions of dollars in electronics to support the Kremlin in its ongoing attacks of Ukraine,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York.
The charges follow a major probe by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Commerce departments.
Goltsev and Puzyreva were arrested at an unidentified Manhattan hotel during a trip to New York to visit Nasriddinov, prosecutors said.
The suspects face conspiracy, wire fraud and other export control charges. Prosecutors alleged the trio quarterbacked an elaborate global procurement scheme and fraud designed to defeat export controls on the technology and sanctions that the U.S. and Canada and other nations slapped on Russia and its military after its illegal Ukraine invasion.
Prosecutors allege Goltsev, Puzyrev and Nasriddinov used two front companies registered in Brooklyn, called SH Brothers Inc. and SN Electronics Inc., to acquire technology and surreptitiously steer it to Russia.
The complaint and other court filings alleged some electronic components and integrated circuits with the same make, model and part numbers shipped by the accused through SH Brothers were found in seized Russian weapon platforms and signals intelligence equipment in Ukraine.
These included the Russian Ka-52 helicopters, Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and T-72B3 battle tanks, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Others found with the controlled components inside them allegedly included the Izdeliye 305E light multi-purpose guided missile and the Vitebsk L370 airborne counter missile systems. Components were also found at the documents described as the Torn-MDM radio reconnaissance complex, the RB-301B “Borisoglebsk-2” electronic warfare complex.
James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge at the FBI, said the evidence gathered in the case highlighted the willingness of Russia to ignore the laws of the United States, using illegal procurement networks to provide for their military.
The indictments described intercepted messages between the three Russians to indicate that they knew full well that the electronic components they were buying and exporting had potential military applications and that U.S. authorities were suspicious of them.
Using aliases like “Nick Stevens” or “Gio Ross,” Nasriddinov and Goltsev allegedly purchased electronic components from U.S. manufacturers and distributors under front companies identified as SH Brothers and SN Electronics.
They arranged for the items to be sent to various locations in Brooklyn. Then, Nasriddinov and Goltsev unlawfully shipped the items to a variety of corporations located in other countries, including Turkey, Hong Kong, India, China and the United Arab Emirates, where those intermediaries later rerouted them to Russia.
The woman, Puzyreva, allegedly operated numerous bank accounts and conducted financial transactions to carry out their scheme.
In a message exchange that allegedly took place on or about and between Nov. 8, 2022 and Nov. 15, 2022 between Nasriddinov and Goltsev, Goltsev commented how shipping to Russia had become “dangerous” and discussed a shipment of electronic components detained by U.S. officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York.
In a Feb. 23, 2023 message, Nasriddinov allegedly wrote to Goltsev, “Happy Defender of the Fatherland.” U.S. authorities said that was a reference to the holiday in Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union celebrating those who served in the armed forces.
The U.S. Attorney noted that various charges in the criminal complaint are allegations, and that Goltsev and Puzyreva are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
None of the evidence has been tested in court, either.