Russian National “Illegal” Charged with Acting as Agent of a Russian Intelligence Service in the United States
Russian National Fraudulently Obtained Entry to the United States Using Brazilian Alias to Attend a University in the District of Columbia and Obtain Information
WASHINGTON – Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov (“Cherkasov”), 37, a national of the Russian Federation who operated as an “Illegal” agent for a Russian Intelligence Service (“RIS”) under the Brazilian alias of Victor Muller Ferreira, was charged today for acting as an agent of a foreign power, visa fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and other charges stemming from his illegal activities in the United States. Cherkasov started acting as an Illegal agent in 2012 in Brazil using the Ferreira name, and he moved to the United States in 2018 after obtaining admission to a graduate school program at a University 1, a university located in the District of Columbia. Cherkasov is currently incarcerated in Brazil on fraud charges.
According to a Criminal Complaint filed on March 24, 2023, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, between 2012 and April 2022. Cherkasov acted as an illegal agent of a RIS using a Brazilian cover identity. In October 2017, Cherkasov maintained his cover as a Brazilian national to apply to graduate programs in the United States, including University 1, and he obtained admission to University 1 at the behest of the RIS. Using that same fraudulent cover, Cherkasov fraudulently applied for, and obtained, a visa to enter the United States in 2017. In March 2018, Cherkasov obtained admission to University 1, and again fraudulently applied for, and obtained, a student visa to enter the United States. According to the complaint, after entering the United States, Cherkasov fraudulently opened bank accounts at a U.S. bank under the Brazilian alias Victor Muller Ferreira and obtained a U.S. driver’s license from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cherkasov further made connections to persons of interest in the United States and maintained communications with his RIS handlers. While in the United States, Cherkasov obtained information about U.S. persons that he passed to his RIS handlers. Cherkasov obtained his graduate degree using the fraudulent Ferreira identity from University 1, and left the United States in or about May 2020. Cherkasov continued his activities for the RIS after leaving the United States, and he continued to use his connections from University 1 to obtain information about U.S. foreign policy to provide to the RIS in 2021 and 2022. Cherkasov attempted to obtain employment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, in April 2022. After being turned away by Dutch officials, Cherkasov returned to Brazil where he was arrested on fraud charges stemming from his use of the false Ferreira identity.
“When foreign adversaries, such as Russia, send undercover operatives into the United States, we will find them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” said US Attorney Matthew M. Graves. “Such adversaries seek to operate in secret to undermine our national security in ways that could jeopardize the safety of our citizens. With our partners in the FBI, we will root out anyone who intends to do harm to the United States and bring them to justice.”
“For years, Cherkasov worked as an illegal agent for a Russian intelligence service and committed fraud against the United States,” said David Sundberg, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Today’s criminal complaint is a result of the hard work, determination, and collaborative efforts of the FBI and our international partners in a complex investigation holding him accountable for his attempts to collect intelligence on the United States at the behest of the Russian government.”
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and coordinated by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tejpal S. Chawla and Trial Attorney Heather Schmidt of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted the case, with support from Paralegals Michael Watts and Mariela Andrade.