Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of
Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s
Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three
Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to
interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016
Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they
called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated
goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political
system in general.”
“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who
they appear to be on the Internet,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J.
Rosenstein. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want
to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence
in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed. The Department of
Justice will continue to work cooperatively with other law enforcement
and intelligence agencies, and with the Congress, to defend our nation
against similar current and future schemes. I want to thank the federal
agents and prosecutors working on this case for their exceptional
According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual
defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a
Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The other individual
defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through
companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord
Catering, and many subsidiaries and affiliates. The conspiracy was part
of a larger operation called “Project Lakhta.” Project Lakhta included
multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the
Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in multiple
Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell
companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations,
ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and
administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars.
Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a
management group and arranged in departments, including graphics,
search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance
departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to
focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were
assigned to the translator project.
Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to
collect intelligence for their American political influence operations.
To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly
purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in
order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly
used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social
media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it
appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United
States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent
bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed
as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against
particular political candidates. They established social media pages
and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased
political advertisements on social media.
The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in
political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political
rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be
grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not
know that they were communicating with Russians.
After the election, the defendants allegedly staged rallies to support
the President-elect while simultaneously staging rallies to protest his
election. For example, the defendants organized one rally to support the
President-elect and another rally to oppose him—both in New York, on
the same day.
On September 13, 2017, soon after the news media reported that the
Special Counsel’s Office was investigating evidence that Russian
operatives had used social media to interfere in the 2016 election, one
defendant allegedly wrote, “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI
busted our activity.... So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks
together with my colleagues.”
The indictment includes eight criminal counts. Count One alleges a
criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, by all of the
defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud the United
States by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election
Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of
State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign
involvement in certain domestic activities.
Count Two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet Research Agency and two individual defendants.
Counts Three through Eight charge aggravated identity theft by Internet Research Agency and four individuals.
There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing
participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in
the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016
Everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty
in court. At trial, prosecutors must introduce credible evidence that is
sufficient to prove each defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, to
the unanimous satisfaction of a jury of twelve citizens.
The Special Counsel's investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the Special Counsel at this time.