NEW YORK (AP) — A Russian banker who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in what the government portrayed as a Cold War-style spy ring was sentenced Wednesday to 2½ years in a U.S. prison.
Evgeny Buryakov, 41, also was fined $10,000 by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who said the sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime and protects the public.
Prosecutors said he teamed up with diplomats to gather sensitive economic intelligence on potential U.S. sanctions against Russian banks and on U.S. efforts to develop alternative energy resources. The activities occurred from 2012 through January 2015.
The case was announced less than five years after the arrest of 10 covert agents. The sleeper cell was referred to as "The Illegals" by the foreign intelligence agency based in Moscow. Its members led ordinary lives for several years in the U.S. using aliases.
Buryakov pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to act as an unregistered agent in the U.S., and both sides had agreed that the 2½-year prison term would be appropriate.
Buryakov, who is fluent in English, declined to speak before the sentence was announced, and his attorney, Scott Hershman, declined to comment afterward.
As Berman said he was imposing the 2½-year prison term, Buryakov nodded his head. Buryakov, who seemed relaxed and relieved as the sentencing ended, remains in custody. He has agreed to be deported when he completes his sentence, likely in March 2017, after he is credited for good behavior.
In a presentence submission to the judge, defense lawyers said it was significant that there were no allegations that Buryakov possessed or passed along any secrets that were not publicly available.
They added that there were no allegations that he tried to recruit agents or others to act against the U.S.
Prosecutors, however, said they would have shown at trial that Buryakov was an agent of Russia's foreign intelligence agency over an extended period of time in the U.S.
Buryakov had worked for VEB, a Russian government-owned bank since 2002. He came to the U.S. in 2010 and continued to work for VEB, where he earned $204,000 annually. Married for 17 years, he has two children, ages 7 and 10, and his parents live in Russia.