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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit
10/07/2014

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Russian national sentenced for conspiring to smuggle night vision technology to Russia

WILMINGTON, Del. — A Russian national was sentenced Wednesday for to conspiring to export high-tech military technology, including night vision devices and thermal imaging scopes, to Russia. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Dmitry Ustinov, 53, of Moscow, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In July, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to export the high-tech military technology, in violation of federal law. The military technology listed in the conspiracy offense was designated on the U.S. Munition List as defense articles and was prohibited from export outside the United States pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Ustinov will be deported from the United States upon his release from federal prison.

"HSI will continue to deter individuals putting America's national security at risk by illegally exporting technology to prohibited countries," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "Our longstanding commitment with our federal law enforcement partners to stop the illegal export of technology to prohibited countries underscores HSI's determination to dismantle and disrupt any illegal scheme involving the illegal export of controlled military equipment."

U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly, III thanked HSI for their hard work saying, "No matter the distance we must travel or the nationality of the defendant, those individuals that want to profit themselves by unlawfully obtaining and exporting items designated by the United States as defense articles will be prosecuted. It is important that we take all necessary steps to prevent our military technology from being exported and possibly used against our service members and our allies overseas."

Following a lengthy HSI investigation, Ustinov was indicted by a grand jury March 25, 2013. On April 15, 2013, at the request of the U.S. government, Ustinov was arrested in Vilnius, Lithuania, after entering the country from Russia and has been in prison since that time. On May 7, 2013, the grand jury issued a superseding indictment with additional offenses related to smuggling arms outside the United States. He was subsequently extradited from Lithuania to Delaware Aug. 23, 2013.

According to court documents, between July 2010 and April 2013, Ustinov worked with a supplier based in Virginia to purchase and export night vision equipment from the United States to Russia without obtaining any export licenses from the U.S. Department of State. Ustinov arranged for international wire transfers to occur so that money could be provided to the supplier's bank account as payment for this equipment. The conspiracy offense alleged that various types of high-tech night vision devices were part of the scheme, including an L3 Insight Mini Thermal Monocular, Night Optics D-740 Night Vision Scopes and Forward Looking Infrared Tau 640 Thermal Imaging Cameras, among other targeting devices.

Given the sensitive nature of the defense articles at issue, Ustinov's scheme was designed to avoid detection by law enforcement at each step in the process. First, he worked closely with a United States-based straw purchaser to conceal his involvement at the point of sale. Second, once a specific defense article was identified for purchase, Ustinov wired money to the straw purchaser to buy the defense article from front companies located in off-shore accounts in Cyprus. Finally, he also caused the packages containing USML defense articles to be falsely labeled so that customs officials from the United States and other countries would be less likely to search the package. Ustinov also discussed using less traditional methods to obtain and export these night vision devices outside the United States, such as establishing a phony front company in the United States, and placing these high-tech devices inside chopped up car parts to conceal them from customs officials. Ustinov never applied for or received a license to export these devices from the U.S. Department of State.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jamie M. McCall and Trial Attorney Mariclaire Rourke of the Counterespionage Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, National Security Division.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 10/14/2014