An American success story of an immigrant from Kazakhstan who made millions off his Texas export firm took a Cold War-era turn on Wednesday when US authorities accused him of being a secret agent who has been stealing military technology for the Russian military.
Alexander Fishenko was among 11 defendants named in a federal indictment filed in Brooklyn charging them with conspiring to purposely evade strict export controls for cutting-edge microelectronics. It also charges Fishenko with money laundering and operating inside the US as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
Fishenko, a naturalized US citizen and owner of Houston-based Arc Electronics, and seven others were awaiting arraignment in Houston following raids there by the FBI.
The indictment alleges that since October 2008, the 46-year-old Fishenko and his co-defendants “engaged in a surreptitious and systematic conspiracy” to obtain the highly regulated technology from US makers and export them to Russia.
US authorities say the microelectronics could have a wide range of military uses, including radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance systems and detonation triggers. They also say the charges come amid a modernization campaign by Russian military officials hungry for the restricted, US-made components.
“The defendants tried to take advantage of America’s free markets to steal US technologies for the Russian government,” Loretta Lynch, US Attorney in Brooklyn, said in a statement.
Stephen Morris, head of the FBI office in Houston, called the charges an example of how some countries have sought to bypass export safeguards “to improve their defense capabilities and to modernize weapons systems at the expense of US taxpayers.”
According to court papers, Fishenko was born in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan and graduated from a technical institute in St. Petersburg before going to the US in 1994. He holds US and Russian passports and has frequently traveled overseas to do business, making tens of millions of dollars on exports, authorities said.
An analysis of Arc’s accounting records showed a “striking similarity between fluctuations in Arc’s gross revenues and the Russian Federation’s defense spending over the last several years,” the court papers say.
Phone calls and emails intercepted by US investigators also “constitute devastating evidence of Fishenko’s illegal procurement for the Russian government,” the court papers say.
Prosecutors said the evidence revealed repeated attempts by Fishenko to cover his tracks.
In one instance in March, he “directed an employee of a Russian procurement firm to ‘make sure that our guys don’t discuss extra information, such as this is for our military client,’” the papers said.
In an earlier conversation, Fishenko favorably referred to a business associate using “a Russian colloquialism for ‘spy’ or ‘secret agent,’” the papers said.
Under sentencing guidelines, Fishenko faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted on all charges.