UPPER SADDLE RIVER — Seven people including a New Jersey resident and five Russian nationals have been charged with conducting a money laundering operation on behalf of the Kremlin to dodge U.S. sanctions, the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday.

According to Attorney General Merrick Garland, U.S. citizen Vadim Yermolenko, 41, of Upper Saddle River, helped to buy and ship millions of dollars worth of military-grade components and electronics. Federal authorities called their scheme “instrumental to the Russian Federation’s war machine.” 

Authorities said that starting in March at the outset of the war in Ukraine, the group unlawfully bought equipment in New York for Russians in a way to conceal that the Russian government was involved. They used dozens of shell companies to purchase the materials and lied about where the equipment would end up, according to an indictment.

Russian Federal Security Service Colonel Vadim Konoshchenok. (U.S. Department of Justice)
Russian Federal Security Service Colonel Vadim Konoshchenok. (U.S. Department of Justice)

The contraband included, in part, "highly sensitive" components that could be used for nuclear and hypersonic weapons, quantum computing, and other military applications.

One member of the group, who referred to himself as a colonel for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), is accused of smuggling tens of thousands of bullets manufactured by a company in Nebraska and sending them to the Russian war machine through Estonia. The FSB is the main successor to the Soviet Union's KGB.

A search of a warehouse in Estonia used by Vadim Konoshchenok, 48, of Estonia, found 375 pounds of ammunition, according to the indictment. Guards at the Russian border also reported finding thousands of 6.5mm rounds in Konoshchenok's vehicle during separate stops on Oct. 27 and Nov. 24. He was arrested on Dec. 6.

Some of the bullets allegedly seized in Estonia. (U.S. Department of Justice)
Some of the bullets allegedly seized in Estonia. (U.S. Department of Justice)

The four other Russian nationals accused of conspiring in the scheme are still at large. Yevgeniy Grinin, 44, Aleksey Ippolitov, 57, Boris Livshits, 52, and Svetlana Skvortsova, 41, are charged with conspiracy and other offenses, the DOJ said.

Alexey Brayman, 35, of New Hampshire, is also charged in the scheme. The lawful permanent U.S. resident did not manage to evade authorities and was arrested. Officials said Brayman's residence in New Hampshire was a frequent "transshipment point" for exporting illicit items to Russia.

Court documents also accuse Brayman and Yermolenko of working closely together to alter and destroy shipping documents and other business records.

Calling him a "significant flight risk," the Department of Justice has requested that Yermolenko's bail be set at $500,000, according to a detention memo. Alexey Brayman's bail was requested to be set at $250,000 as he is an Israeli citizen and also poses a flight risk.

Officials said each of the accused co-conspirators faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

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