Three Russians have been charged with acting as agents of the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence agency, in New York City, according to a statement published on the United States Department of Justice website.
The three Russian nationals facing espionage charges are Evgeny Buryakov, aka “Zhenya,” who posed as an employee of a Russian bank in Manhattan, and Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, who are protected from prosecution by diplomatic immunity because they officially worked for the Russian Federation.
Federal investigators say Sporyshev, 40, and Podobnyy, 27, who are no longer in the U.S., were in charge of attempting to recruit New York residents as intelligence sources for Russia.
Sporyshev and Podobnyy are accused of tasking Burakov, 39, who was arrested on Monday, to gather intelligence and transmitting his intelligence reports to Moscow.
The FBI recorded more than 48 meetings among the three. Several involved Buryakov passing a bag, magazine or slip of paper to Sporyshev.
The men are accused of gathering intelligence on potential U.S. sanctions against the Russian Federation and U.S. efforts to develop alternative energy resources.
“This investigation is one of many that highlight the determined and prolific efforts by foreign governments to target Americans for the purposes of collecting intelligence and stealing secrets,” FBI Assistant Director Randall Coleman said in the Justice Department statement. “This case is especially egregious as it demonstrates the actions of a foreign intelligence service to integrate a covert intelligence agent into American society under the cover of an employee in the financial sector. Espionage is as pervasive today as it has even been, and FBI counterintelligence teams will continue to aggressively investigate and expose hostile foreign intelligence activities conducted on U.S. soil.”