FBI raids facility in SW Houston allegedly connected to ring of Russian agents
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Federal agents raided a southwest Houston facility Wednesday that they say is connected to the illegal exporting of sensitive U.S. equipment to Russia's military and intelligence agency.
The office building on West Line and Townpark was sealed off with yellow tape by the FBI. It is one alleged part of a larger Russian military procurement ring accused of operating illegally in the U.S.
When nearby Tejas Taco House opened early Wednesday morning, it was not to business as usual.
"I saw FBI guys on top of the roof here and next door on the building," said Abraham Solis.
FBI agents, police, even the Navy's famed Criminal Investigative Service surrounded a neighboring office park tenant called ARC Electronics. According to an FBI statement, it's an alleged front for a Russian military procurement network operating illegally in the U.S.
States the Department of Justice, "Arc also falsely claimed to be a traffic light manufacturer on its website and operated exclusively as an exporter."
Eleven people were arrested on federal charges of illegally exporting high-tech electronics to Russian military and intelligence agencies. The indictment reads in part, "These commodities have applications and are frequently used in a wide range of military systems, include radar and surveillance, missile guidance and detonation triggers. Russia doesn't produce many of these sophisticated goods domestically."
All this was allegedly done in part from a southwest Houston office park.
"And they're not going to go to a high-profile area where the Russians have a high profile like New York or Chicago. They're going to go to a place where they can operate under the radar and Houston is a perfect place for that," said KTRK Security Analyst Jim Conway.
Those arrested are all Russian, including the alleged agent Alexander Fishenko, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in recent years. And just think, says one of the owners of Tejas Tacos, they were all his customers until Wednesday.
"They'd go to Russia and come back and tell us they just got back from Russia and going back in a couple of months," said Solis.
So far, eight people are in custody locally, including Fishenko. All of them will go before a federal magistrate later today at the Harris County Federal Courthouse.
According to the FBI, the suspects will then be transported back to New York where the indictments were unsealed Wednesday morning.
The microelectronics are subject to strict government controls. Authorities say they could have a wide range of military uses, including radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance systems and detonation triggers.
Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on this story.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained a photograph showing a truck operated by Jetco Delivery. Jetco Delivery is not involved with the facility that was raided by federal agents Wednesday morning.
local, deborah wrigley
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