Of Spies and Casinos

[photo: liebeslakritze via Flickr]

Many have forgotten the case of Russian spies arrested in the U.S.

Not the ten from the Illegals Program sleeper cell spy ring rounded up in 2010, whose integration into the U.S. formed the backbone of the cable drama, The Americans.

No, the ones in New York City who attempted to recruit college students and collect economic intelligence.

Three in total were arrested a year ago January — Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy — the latter two shipped out as they were here under diplomatic visas while the first was prosecuted and jailed.

The story is rather interesting though it didn’t garner much attention outside New York. The spies were tasked with not only recruiting but gathering intelligence in the financial sector about market destabilization and the status of development and investment in alternative energy.

Buryakov, who was not under diplomatic protection, wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box. He was a little put out at having a less than glamorous gig, and he was rather imprudent. He was recorded easily, and his words used as evidence against him.

One interesting bit was thinly fleshed out in the USDOJ’s complaint.

Buryakov toured casinos in Atlantic City.

But which casinos?

In July 2014, a confidential contact working on behalf of the FBI, “posed as the representative of a wealthy investor looking to work with Bank-1 [the Russian bank for which Buryakov posed as an employee] to develop casinos in Russia,” and approached Buryakov about casino development in Russia. A tour of Atlantic City casinos was taken in August.

Combing through the complaint looking for the colleges from which they attempted to recruit revealed no mention of Trump University.

But the casinos visited aren’t clear. The Trump Plaza (closed September 2014) or the Trump Taj Mahal (closed October 2016) can’t be ruled out as sites visited by Buryakov — the Plaza closed only a few weeks later.

The skepticism with which they viewed the casino gambit was amusing (excerpt from complaint, p. 23-24):

It was a trap, just as suspected; did the confidential source not give off the right vibe, or were the Russians skeptical of any investment in casinos developed in Russia? Trump, after all, didn’t get his Trump Towers Moscow off the ground even after his 2013 trip for the Miss World Pageant. Did the skepticism worry the FBI they might lose their targets? Or did the FBI finally have enough of toying with these guys and decide it was time to drop the hammer? Was some other trigger which forced the FBI to wrap up this investigation?

A few other points worth noting:

• “Others known and unknown” were also involved in spying or supporting spies but were not included in the warrant according to the complaint (ex: CC-1 and CC-2 in complaint). Who were they and where are they now? Has the FBI continued to watch them? Were any of them among the Russians who were escorted out of the U.S. after former president Obama announced new sanctions this past December?

• “And then Putin even tried to justify that they weren’t even tasked to work, they were sleeper cells in case of martial law,” Victor Podobnyy remarked in a conversation about the Illegals Program sleeper cells. What did he mean by, “in case of martial law”? Is this a continuing concern with regard to any remaining undetected sleeper cells?

• A “leading Russian state-owned news organization” was mentioned in the complaint, “used for intelligence gathering purposes.” Which news outlet was this? How did this news organization figure into advanced methods used by this operation? It would be interesting to know if this was RT (formerly Russia Today) given Michael Flynn’s and Jill Stein’s attendance at an RT event in December 2015.

• The spies used an office in Manhattan for conveying information to their superiors. How was this done apart from phone calls; what technology and networks if any were involved?

There’s an important bit about aeronautics, but I’ll tackle that in another post. It’s important enough to be broken out on its own.

Oh, one last thing about this case: timing.

— On January 21, 2016 UK’s public inquest announced its final conclusions into the PO-210 poisoning death of Alexander Litivinenko, attributing the murder to orders from the top of Russia’s FSB — including Vladimir Putin.

— The next day, January 22,  the UK froze the assets of the escaped henchmen accused of the poisoning while seeking their extradition.

— A sealed complaint and a request for warrants were filed in Southern District of New York for the three Russian spies on January 23, 2016.

— The arrests of the spies was reported publicly on January 26, 2016.

These events on either side of the Atlantic didn’t happen in a vacuum. The casinos’ tour and the hand-off of government documents happened nearly six months before the complaint and warrants were filed and issued. But the Litvinenko inquest conclusion and the arrests happened within a couple of days — mere hours apart.

It shouldn’t be surprising to find coordinated retaliation occurred against both the UK and the US.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
16 replies
  1. harpie says:

    Hi Rayne,

    Have you seen this:

    Caroline O. [email protected]  https://twitter.com/RVAwonk/status/833040196300058629

    Oh wow-> FBI is conducting 3 probes into Russian election interference. **One is looking at Trump business links**

    New Reuters report also corroborates NYT report re: Trump campaign communicating w/Russian intel officers *before* the election.

    U.S. inquiries into Russian election hacking include three FBI probes; 2/18/17 1:11pm ET http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-cyber-idUSKBN15X0OE 

  2. harpie says:

    Hi Rayne, have you seen this story?:

    Caroline O. [email protected]
    https://twitter.com/RVAwonk/status/833040196300058629
    Oh wow-> FBI is conducting 3 probes into Russian election interference. **One is looking at Trump business links** 
    New Reuters report also corroborates NYT report re: Trump campaign communicating w/Russian intel officers *before* the election.
    *Coincidentally*, as Reuters report was released, a bunch of accts simultaneously posted stories falsely claiming Trump was cleared by FBI. [She has screen shots]

    U.S. inquiries into Russian election hacking include three FBI probes; 2/18/17 1:11pm ET http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-cyber-idUSKBN15X0OE

    The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is pursuing at least three separate probes relating to alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential elections, according to five current and former government officials with direct knowledge of the situation.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, harpie, I’d seen there were more than one investigation, but I missed the part about the fake stories. I’ll look into that further.

      Clearly from this Russian spies case the FBI *knew* there was more going on but never, ever said a peep during campaign season.

      But her emails…/snark

  3. Phil Perspective says:

    A “leading Russian state-owned news organization” was mentioned in the complaint, “used for intelligence gathering purposes.” Which news outlet was this? How did this news organization figure into advanced methods used by this operation? It would be interesting to know if this was RT (formerly Russia Today) given Michael Flynn’s and Jill Stein’s attendance at an RT event in December 2015.

     

    If RT really is the work of the devil, as some try to claim, why do anchors/reporters who have worked there repeatedly get jobs with “mainstream” outfits?  Or is that just to distract from the fact that most of the corporate controlled media is propaganda as well?

    • Rayne says:

      How would you make an organization appear legitimate? Though I typically avoid them, I’ve to had to use RT a couple times myself because no other outlet had done adequate legwork which checked out. Roll in and out the door enough legitimate content and the illegitimate will get a pass.

      Hence legit journos and pundits going through its doors.

      I also recommend this video, especially the bit after 0:56:00 about advanced measures and how long it takes to achieve certain ends.

  4. SpaceLifeForm says:

    @Rayne

    Do you see my above post?

    You should now know the keywords I am referring to. Reply to this on blog. Want to see if MITM or buggy webserver.

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t know if we are on the same page. Maybe under-caffienated here. I can see two comments here from you, first with story you linked, won’t poke around at link because of the risk.

      Might be Cloud/flare issue due to traffic? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  5. Desider says:

    A lot more background on Trump casino connections with Russia, including bailouts and such. Most curious is whether Felix Sater was a government informant, so improprieties from him & his Trump connections got buried? http://dagblog.com/world-affairs/notes-underground-21978
    Also looks like a whole lot of infrastructure payola – about $1-2 trillion worth? about to be spread among these “developers”.

  6. harpie says:

    “In July 2014, a confidential contact working on behalf of the FBI, “posed as the representative of a wealthy investor looking to work with Bank-1 [the Russian bank for which Buryakov posed as an employee] to develop casinos in Russia,” and approached Buryakov about casino development in Russia. A tour of Atlantic City casinos was taken in August.”

     
    Adam Khan [email protected] Feb 6 https://twitter.com/Khanoisseur/status/828639786671894528 
    1. Sberbank, which sponsored Trump’s 2013 Miss Universe in Moscow is on US sanctions list @fwdcrocblu [Retweets previous comment/thread]:

    7. At 2013 Moscow Miss U contest, Trump gets private meeting with CEO of Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, which finances Russian intel ops

  7. greengiant says:

    Trump Casino 10 million dollar fine for money laundering March 6, 2015 problems  going back 17 years.    https://twitter.com/Khanoisseur/status/817982670277746688

    • harpie says:

      Adam Khan [email protected] Jan 7 https://twitter.com/Khanoisseur/status/817875178470445062
      Adam Khan Retweeted Adam Khan

      1. A thread on something that’s been bothering me: How on earth was Trump losing money on his casinos while competitors were making bank?
      3. But what if there’s more to Trump’s casino losses, which ran billions of dollars.Was it to disguise Russian money laundering?
      10. Here is the smoking gun: US Treasury fined Trump’s casinos $10 million for “significant, long standing anti-money laundering violations”
      12. If Congress pursues Trump’s Russia ties/grooming, his casino money laundering investigation holds  key answers
      16. So during his casino (hit with  $10M $ laundering fine) run in 90s Trump *personally* sold condos to Russian mob
      18. Trump sold *5* condos to associate of crime boss/Putin pal Mogilevich, whose CV includes Al Qaeda, arms, nukes, contract hits on journos
      20. If Mogilevich-Putin collab is behind Trump, you’ll understand why no journalist or politician will probe further
        21. So now that it’s clear both Bogatin, Sater worked for Mogilevich–explains Trump’s casino financials, $10M fine?

    • harpie says:

      And Learning Eye-Popping Details About Mr Sater 2/19/17 http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/learning-eye-popping-details-about-mr-sater

      He clearly did something for the US government which the feds found highly valuable. It seems likely, though not certain, that it involved working with the CIA on something tied to the post-Soviet criminal underworld. Now Bayrock and Trump come into the mix. […] The investors argued, quite reasonably, that they never would have invested in Trump Tower Fort Lauderdale if they had known that the key executive organizing the project had been convicted of cheating investors out of $40 million. The federal government had prevented them from learning this information by keeping the securities fraud case secret. This sparked a highly complex and dramatic legal case in which the federal government used all the full force of its need to protect national security in defense of keeping Sater’s crimes secret. […]

       

      • Rayne says:

        Thanks for all the links, harpie. There’s just so damned much, like trying to find a mouse under an mountainous avalanche. At some point I should try to creat a timeline to see if anything stands out, but I am short on time right now. I’ll keep watching any links you leave if they align with this known spy case to see if they sync up with the confidential sources. Thanks again.

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