Federal agents swooped into the southwest Houston business Arc and emerged with boxes and boxes of evidence.
They also raided a series of homes and seized five bank accounts. Eleven people are under arrested, including Arc's owner, Alexander Fishenko. They are accused of buying sophisticated microelectronics, falsifying shipping documents to avoid export restrictions, and sending them to another company Fishenko owned in Russia. That company, Apex, would turn the items over to the Russian government.
"In this day and time, the ability of foreign countries to illegally acquire sensitive and sophisticated US technology poses a significant threat to both the economic and national security of our nation," Houston FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris said. "While some countries may leverage our technology for financial gain, many countries hostile to the United States seek to improve their defense capabilities and to modernize their weapons systems at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. The FBI will continue to work aggressively with our partners in the US Intelligence Community to protect this technology and hold accountable those companies that willfully choose to violate our U.S. export laws."
According to court documents, some of these parts have appeared in the Russian Mig-35 fighter plane and anti-ship missiles. They can be uses for detonation triggers and surveillance, guidance and radar systems. Arc claimed on its website that it made traffic lights.
"The receipt of US-made, cutting-edge microelectronics has advanced Russia's military technological capabilities. NCIS and the Department of the Navy have worked closely with the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Commerce in this investigation due to the potential for significant enhancement of Russian naval weapons systems that would result from the illegal acquisition of these export-controlled technologies," said Special Agent in Charge Timothy W. Reeves, NCIS Central Field Office.
These microelectronics are not illegal to possess, but exporting them without permission from the government is. This is common practice for items that have military applications, but the rules vary from country to country.
"Complicated to know this but that doesn't put our boy Fishenko in the category of ignorance of the fact," says Chris Bronk, an IT fellow at Rice University.
He also says this is classic Soviet-era stuff.
"The Russians have bought high technology from the west for a long time. This is not new.
Fishenko and six other defendants will be in court Thursday morning. Alexander Posibilov has already made his initial appearance. The case will be transferred from Houston to the Eastern District of New York.