By Allan Lengel
With international tensions mounting with the Ukraine-Russia war, charges like these seem to take on greater meaning.
The Justice Department on Friday charged that Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov (“Cherkasov”), 37, a national of the Russian Federation, operated as an “Illegal” agent for a Russian Intelligence Service (“RIS”) under the Brazilian alias of Victor Muller Ferreira.
Specifically, he was charged with acting as an agent of a foreign power, visa fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and other illegal activities. He is currently incarcerated in Brazil on fraud charges.
According to authorities, Cherkasov began working as an Illegal agent in 2012 in Brazil, using the Ferreira name. In 2018, he moved to the U.S. after obtaining admission to a graduate school program at a D.C. university.
While in the U.S., he made connections to persons of interest in the United States and maintained communications with his RIS handlers, the DOJ said.
He obtained a graduate degree from the D.C. university and left the U.S. in May 2020.
But after leaving he continued to use his connections from the university to obtain information about U.S. foreign policy to provide to the RIS in 2021 and 2022.
Cherkasov attempted to obtain employment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, in April 2022. After being turned away by Dutch officials, Cherkasov returned to Brazil where he was arrested on fraud charges stemming from his use of the false Ferreira identity.
“When foreign adversaries, such as Russia, send undercover operatives into the United States, we will find them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” said D.C. U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves in a statement. “Such adversaries seek to operate in secret to undermine our national security in ways that could jeopardize the safety of our citizens. With our partners in the FBI, we will root out anyone who intends to do harm to the United States and bring them to justice.”