The Justice Department has charged a dual citizen of Russia and the United States with acting as a Kremlin spy for Vladimir Putin, failing to register as a foreign agent.
Elena Branson, 61, became a dual citizen in 1999 after nine years in the U.S. and has been charged with having "actively subverted foreign agent registration laws in the United States in order to promote Russian policies and ideology," according to Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
"Branson is alleged to have corresponded with Putin himself and met with a high-ranking Russia minister before founding a Russian propaganda center here in New York City, the Russian Center New York," Williams added.
"Branson's promotional outreach, including an 'I Love Russia' campaign aimed at American youths, exemplifies her attempts to act at the behest of the Russian government to illegally promote its interests in the United States."
Williams asserted that "Branson knew she was supposed to register as an agent of the Russian government but chose not to do so and, instead, instructed others regarding how to illegally avoid the same."
A federal court in New York unsealed a complaint Tuesday charging Branson with acting and conspiring to act in the United States illegally as an agent of the Russian government, willfully failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as well as conspiring to commit visa fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
According to court documents, beginning in at least 2011, Branson worked on behalf of the Russian government and Russian officials to advance Russian interests in the United States, including by coordinating meetings for Russian officials to lobby U.S. political officials and businesspeople, and by operating organizations in the United States for the purpose of publicly promoting Russian government policies.
"The evidence gathered in the Branson case shows she is a serial offender in violating the Foreign Agents Registration Action in order to promote Russian interests," Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division said in a statement.
"While living in the United States for nearly a decade, she allegedly took money and direction from Russian government officials — including some at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. — as she arranged meetings for Russian officials to lobby U.S. officials. The FBI and our partners will continue to investigate and stop individuals who hide their work for foreign governments, like the one in Moscow."
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