Italian national sentenced to federal prison for attempting to evade U.S. national security trade sanctions
Investigation continues against Russian, U.S. defendants
SAVANNAH, GA: An Italian national has been sentenced to federal prison after his conviction for violating national security laws.
Gabriele Villone of Italy was sentenced to 28 months in prison for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 (ECRA), said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
“The defendant tried to obtain industrial equipment from the United States on behalf of a Russian energy company in violation of U.S. sanctions,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who threaten our national security.”
As described in court documents and testimony, Villone, along with two Russian nationals, an Italian national, a U.S. citizen and various companies, conspired to obtain a power turbine from the United States without a license on behalf of a Russian energy company based in St. Petersburg. Villone and some of his co-defendants were arrested in Savannah, Ga., while attempting to complete the illegal transaction.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy began when an unnamed Russian government-controlled business contracted with Oleg Nikitin, a Russian national, and KS Engineering (“KSE”), the Russian-based energy company, to purchase a power turbine from a U.S.-based manufacturer for approximately $17.3 million. Evidence in the case established the intent of the Russian company to use the turbine on a Russian Arctic deepwater drilling platform. For reasons of national security, the U.S. Department of Commerce expressly prohibited any unlicensed shipment or transfer of the turbine to the Russian company for that purpose.
The indictment further alleged that Nikitin, KSE, and another KSE employee, Anton Cheremukhin, hired Villone, Bruno Caparini and GVA International to obtain the turbine on their behalf. Villone, Caprini and GVA then employed the services of Dali Bagrou and World Mining and Oil Supply (“WMO”) of Dacula, Ga., to procure the turbine from a U.S.-based manufacturer and to have the turbine shipped overseas. The parties conspired to conceal the true end user of the turbine from both the U.S. manufacturer and the U.S. government by submitting false documentation that stated it would be used by a U.S. company in and around Atlanta.
“The illegal transfer of technology that allows our adversaries to gain a military advantage will never be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Cyndy Bruce, DCIS Southeast Field Office. “The United States will continue to conduct investigations to ensure our critical technologies are secure and those who seek to infiltrate our defense systems are brought to justice.”
“This defendant was part of a bold, shameless scheme to undermine United States sanctions,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This direct threat to national security was upended because of a collaborative investigation by federal law enforcement partners and now justice is being served to those involved in it.”
“The export and cargo environment examinations are a critical component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trade enforcement and border security missions,” said Donald F. Yando, Director of CBP Field Operations Atlanta. “CBP remains committed to working with our partners and enforcing the laws and regulations that are in place to protect the American public.”
The Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, as well as the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case with assistance from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Customs and Border Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer G. Solari and Steven H. Lee are prosecuting the case with Trial Attorney William A. Mackie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.