A Soviet-born man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges alleging he was at the center of a plot to smuggle microelectronic components out of the U.S. for use by the Russian military and spy agencies, Reuters reported. Alexander Fishenko, a resident of Texas and dual U.S.-Russian citizen, appeared at the federal court in Brooklyn, New York, where he was due to stand trial in less than two weeks.
The plea deal, announced by acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie, came nearly three years after Fishenko and 10 associates were charged in what prosecutors said was a complex scheme to smuggle the components out of the country.
"Fishenko lined his pockets at the expense of our national security," Currie said in a statement announcing the guilty plea. "This prosecution highlights the importance of vigorously enforcing United States export control laws."
Sentencing was set for Jan. 14. Prosecutors estimated that Fishenko could face up to 15 years in prison.
Fishenko ran a Houston-based company that was able to obtain highly regulated technology from U.S. manufacturers and secretly export it to Russia for use by intelligence and military agencies. The microelectronics have many military uses, such as surveillance systems, detonation triggers and weapons guidance triggers.
Accused Russian agent pleads guilty in U.S. over tech smuggling scheme http://t.co/ra5EAIvcRs
— Reuters U.S. News (@ReutersUS) September 9, 2015
Court documents show that Fishenko was born in the then-Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan in 1966 and moved to the U.S. in 1994. While his initial asylum application stated that he had no military experience, other documents provided by the court show that he claimed to have served in a Soviet intelligence unit in Berlin in the 1980s.
Fishenko’s company, Arc Electronics, had earned approximately $50 million in gross revenue since 2002, according to paperwork he filed with the Texas secretary of state.
Russian authorities have not confirmed whether Fishenko was a spy and have not responded to the guilty plea.