Mueller lands another guilty plea in Russian Federation probe

Leslie Hanson
February 18, 2018

A Justice Department spokeswoman says Pinedo did not know at the time he was dealing with Russians.

Richard Pinedo pleaded guilty to knowingly buying and selling bank account numbers to circumvent online payment security systems between 2014 and 2017, according to a February 12 court filing. The related indictment of the Russians listed 14 bank accounts they used.

According to the statement of the offense, Pinedo operated an online service called "Auction Essistance" between 2014 and December of previous year through which he helped people circumvent security features of online digital payment companies, including one company in particular identified only as "Company 1".

However, shortly before it was released, Mueller's office released an indictment describing an elaborate scheme whereby Russians tried to influence the elections, in part by duping Americans and paying to promote rallies through advertisements and other means. But cached versions of the business' homepage and a promotional Medium post from 2015 show a business pitching itself as a trusted aid to webcrawlers who'd like privacy online. The site advises its worldwide customers to use a US-based IP address with a fake account.

The bank account numbers that they purchased were allegedly created using stolen American identities, according to the indictment.

Pinedo's guilty plea is the third stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

"Apparently he was basically stealing people's identifications and then using them to open bank accounts which he then provided to the Russians who are interested in having a place from which they could use the money without revealing who they really are", says Loyola Law School Professor and former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson.

"Mr. Pinedo sold bank information which allowed individuals to fraudulently verify and establish accounts with online financial institutions". "Doing so was a mistake, and Mr. Pinedo has accepted full responsibility for his actions", the statement said. "But he had nothing to do with assisting any type of foreign national at all".

He personally collected "tens of thousands of dollars" through the sale of the accounts, ' according to the government.

The attorney, Jeremy Lessem, declined to comment further, "given the ongoing nature of this investigation".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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