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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 21, 2021

Five Charged in Scheme to Export to Russia Thermal Imaging Scopes and Night Vision Goggles in Violation of Arms Export Control Act

          LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities have arrested two Illinois residents named in an indictment that accuses five defendants of conspiring to unlawfully export to Russia defense articles – specifically, thermal imaging riflescopes and night-vision goggles – without a license in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

          The indictment also accuses all five defendants of conspiring to smuggle thermal imaging devices from the United States and file false export information to conceal their activities.

          The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on May 26 and unsealed following the arrests on June 17, outlines a nearly four-year scheme in which the defendants purchased dozens of thermal imaging devices – most of which cost between $5,000 and $10,000 and are controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations – from sellers across the United States.

          The defendants allegedly obtained many of the items using aliases, falsely assuring the sellers that they would not export the items from the United States. The thermal imaging devices were then exported to co-conspirators in Russia using aliases and false addresses to conceal their activities, according to the indictment.

          The defendants hid the thermal imaging devices among other non-export-controlled items when exporting them to Russia, and they falsely stated on export declarations that the contents of their exports were non-export-controlled items with values of less than $2,500, the indictment alleges. In no case did any of the defendants obtain the required export licenses to export defense articles to Russia.

          The two defendants arrested on June 17 in Illinois are Elena Shifrin, 59, of Mundelein, Illinois, and Vladimir Pridacha, 55, of Volo, Illinois. These two defendants made their initial court appearances last week in the United States District Court in Chicago and were released on $100,000 bond.

          The other three defendants named in the indictment are: Boris Polosin, of Russia; Vladimir Gohman, of Israel, and Igor Panchernikov, an Israeli citizen who, during much of the scheme, resided in Corona, California.

          An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

          The charge of conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. The second conspiracy charge alleged in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison.

          The FBI’s Los Angeles and Chicago field offices investigated this matter, with substantial assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations.

          Assistant United States Attorneys David T. Ryan and Wilson Park of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section and Justice Department Trial Attorney Matthew Chang of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting this case.

Topic(s): 
Counterintelligence and Export Control
Contact: 
Ciaran McEvoy Public Information Officer United States Attorney’s Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) ciaran.mcevoy@usdoj.gov (213) 894-4465
Press Release Number: 
21-115
Updated June 21, 2021