An Israeli citizen was among seven people charged by US prosecutors this week with smuggling sensitive electronic components to Russia that could potentially be used to make nuclear weapons.
US prosecutors claimed the group worked with two Moscow-based companies controlled by Russian intelligence services to acquire electronic components in the US that have civilian uses, but can also be used to help make nuclear and hypersonic weapons and in quantum computing.
One of those indicted is 35-year-old Alexey Brayman, who holds Israeli citizenship but is a resident of Merrimack, New Hampshire.
According to The Boston Globe, Brayman was born in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The court agreed at a hearing on the charges that he would be allowed to return to his New Hampshire home, but he was fitted with a location tracker.
The indictment, cited by CBS, said Brayman “repeatedly used the New Hampshire residence as a transshipment point for repackaging sensitive military-grade and export-controlled items and forwarding them to intermediate locations in Europe and Asia, from where they were transshipped to Russia.”
The Boston Globe said prosecutors charged the equipment “could make a significant contribution to the military potential or nuclear proliferation of other nations or that could be detrimental to the… national security of the United States.”
According to the newspaper, supplies smuggled through the Drayman family home included semiconductors — key to producing the ballistic missiles that Russia has deployed to deadly effect in Ukraine.
The exporting of the technology involved in the case is heavily regulated and occurred in violation of US sanctions, according to a 16-count indictment unsealed Monday in Brooklyn.
“The Department of Justice and our international partners will not tolerate criminal schemes to bolster the Russian military’s war efforts,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement announcing the charges.
However, the Boston Globe noted Brayman had posted on Facebook a clip of Ukrainian performers on the “America’s Got Talent” television show highlighting the years-long conflict between Moscow and Kyiv.
The report said that even as equipment was allegedly smuggled through their New Hampshire home en route to Russia, Brayman’s wife Daria posted a call for donations to a charity that was helping Ukrainians amid the invasion.
The couple’s Facebook pages, now apparently taken down or set to private, also reportedly documented at least one vacation to Israel.
The Boston Globe likened the case to a plot line from “The Americans,” a drama in which a pair of Russian spies lived undercover in suburbia.
Neighbors told the outlet that the Braymans run an online crafting company and participated in community activities.
“It’s crazy. You just never know who’s in your neighborhood and what they’re doing behind closed doors,” neighbor Mike Benoit told CBS.
Brayman’s attorney David Lazarus said in an email that his client has not been convicted of anything and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
The seven charged included five Russian nationals, including Vadim Konoshchenok, a suspected officer with Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB. He was arrested in Estonia last week and will undergo extradition proceedings to the United States, US authorities said.
About 375 pounds of ammunition originating from the United States was found by Estonian authorities in a warehouse used by Konoshchenok, according to federal prosecutors.
The four other Russian nationals remain at large.
Also arrested was Vadim Yermolenko, a US citizen living in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
US officials said the arrests had disrupted the procurement network allegedly used by Russian intelligence services, which they said had been operating as far back as 2017.
US scrutiny of efforts to evade sanctions on Russia intensified after the invasion of Ukraine last winter.