A Russian citizen described as a big-game hunter and consultant to a Russian company that manufactures AK-47 assault rifles was sentenced Wednesday to time served — about 2 1/2 months — for trying to take a restricted rifle scope back to Moscow without a U.S. export license.
Evgeny Spiridonov, 40, was arrested in January at Los Angeles International Airport following his attendance at a gun show in Las Vegas. He had checked his luggage, containing the high-tech night vision scope, and was attempting to board an Aeroflot flight for Moscow, where he lives, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The rifle scope is among firearms-related optical sighting devices under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce and cannot be exported without a permit, due to its possible tactical uses.
Spiridonov, a consultant for Russian arms-manufacturer Kalashnikov, pleaded guilty to trying to violate U.S. export controls, a federal charge punishable by up to five years behind bars. He had been in custody for 75 days, according to defense attorney Stewart J. Powell.
The investigation began in December, when Spiridonov sent an email to a Pennsylvania weapons dealer seeking the $2,400 rifle scope and 300 bullet casings, indicating he intended to bring the items back to Russia.
When told that the scope required a license to export to Russia, Spiridonov “brushed aside those concerns, told (the dealer) he would remove the serial number on the rifle scope, and said that if asked, he would lie and say he obtained it from a pawn shop,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed in Los Angeles federal court.
The weapons dealer informed law enforcement and agents made the purchase themselves, staging a delivery at the Venetian, where Spiridonov was staying in Las Vegas.
Following his arrest at LAX, Spiridonov expressed a desire to admit his guilt and resolve the case quickly, prosecutors said. He also furnished evidence that he makes his living primarily as a big-game hunter and consented to a search of various electronic devices seized during his arrest, papers show.
According to Powell, Spiridonov acts as a consultant to Kalashnikov by testing the company’s “civilian hunting weapons and products, and provides feedback to the company.”
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