January 26, 2015 / 7:45 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. charges three in alleged Russian spy ring in NYC

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Monday unveiled criminal charges against three men for their alleged involvement in a Russian spy ring operating in New York City.

Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy conspired to gather economic intelligence on behalf of Russia, including alleged information about U.S. sanctions against the country, and to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Monday’s charges are linked to Buryakov’s alleged covert work on behalf of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, according to a criminal complaint.

Buryakov, 39, masked this work by posing as a banker for Russia’s Vnesheconombank, according to the complaint and the bank’s website.

The alleged conspiracy began in 2012, following the 2010 expulsion of several Russian spies from the United States.

Federal prosecutors said Sporyshev, 40, worked as a Russian trade representative from November 2010 to November 2014, while Podobnyy, 27, was an attaché to Russia’s mission to the United Nations from December 2012 to September 2013. .

“The presence of a Russian banker in New York would in itself hardly draw attention today, which is why these alleged spies may have thought Buryakov would blend in,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement.

Each defendant was charged with acting as or helping Buryakov to act as an unregistered agent of a Russia, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term, and conspiracy.

Prosecutors said the case was built on physical and electronic surveillance of dozens of meetings, including several in which Buryakov met with an FBI agent posing as a wealthy investor who hoped to develop casinos in Russia.

They said Buryakov would seek information “far outside” what a banker in his position would care about, including a list of Russian entities that might face future U.S. sanctions.

Buryakov was arrested on Monday in the Bronx borough of New York City. His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Sporyshev and Podobnyy have not been arrested and no longer live in the United States but had diplomatic immunity while they were in the country, federal prosecutors said.

Russia’s U.N. mission and Vnesheconombank did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker

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