BUSTED: Russians caught trying to influence member of Congress with 'all expenses paid' junket
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (AFP)

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday unsealed an indictment against three Russian citizens for "conspiring to use an agent of Russia in the United States without prior notice to the Attorney General, conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and conspiring to commit visa fraud."

The charges are against Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Babakov, 59; Aleksandr Nikolayevich Vorobev, 52; and Mikhail Alekseyevich Plisyuk, 58.

One American member of Congress was allegedly targeted in the scheme, but the Department of Justice did not reveal the member's name.

Aleksandr Babakov, a Russian legislator, and two of his staff were implicated.

"Among other things, the defendants contacted members of the U.S. Congress from 2012 into 2017 to seek meetings and to offer free travel to at least one Congressmember on behalf of Babakov, as well as other foreign officials aligned and associated with Babakov. For example, in 2012, at the direction of the defendants, CC-1 sought to secure a meeting for Babakov with multiple members of Congress, including by offering an 'all expenses paid' trip to a particular Congressmember to meet with European politicians and receive “an award.” Congressmembers rebuffed these efforts," the DOJ reported. "Also in March 2017, the defendants contacted at least one member of the U.S. Congress to offer free travel to a Babakov-affiliated conference in Yalta, part of Russia-controlled Crimea, as a service to benefit the purported 'Prime Minister of Crimea,' Sergey Aksyonov. Aksyonov was organizing and attending the conference, and had been sanctioned by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as a Specially Designated National (SDN) since 2014 based on his role in actions and policies threatening the sovereignty of Ukraine."

Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division said, "This FBI investigation highlights the lengths the Russian government will go to undermine our rule of law."

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