Couple Behind Russian Gun Running Plot Nabbed in Manhattan Hotel Room

Kristina Puzyreva and her husband, Nikolay Goltsev, were arrested in a Manhattan hotel in October last year. A third alleged conspirator, Salimdzhon Nasiddinov, was taken from one of his Brooklyn addresses.

| 16 Feb 2024 | 06:23

Kristina Puzyreva, a 32-year old Russian-Canadian woman, pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn federal court to money laundering, part of a scheme to funnel $7 million in advanced weaponry to Russia as it persists in its two-year invasion of Ukraine. According to the indictment, Puzyreva and her 37-year-old husband Nikolay Goltsev deposited several tens of thousands of dollars in their two New York-based bank accounts through ATMs in Manhattan and Brooklyn in order to deliver parts for military drones and guided missile systems to blacklisted Russian entities.

The couple were arrested in a Manhattan hotel during an October 2023 trip to visit Salimdzhon Nasiddinov, a 52-year old Russian-Tajik national and alleged co-conspirator living in Brooklyn. Prosecutors said they recovered $20,000 in cash from the hotel at the time of their arrest. An additional $1.1 million was seized from the couples domestic bank accounts.

DHS special agent Yevgeny Gershman wrote that the troika’s illegal activities began in January 2022, and for nearly two years they violated U.S. sanctions and export controls by sourcing, purchasing, and shipping to Russian military procurement firms the electric components and integrated circuits needed for guided missiles, electronic warfare systems, helicopters, tanks, and drones. The seized parts matched those found in abandoned Russian weapons across Ukraine. Puzyreva and Goltsev processed their transactions through NYC-based bank accounts held by Puzyreva and the corporate entities SH Brothers and SN Electronics, which Nasriddinov founded in June 2021 and January 2023, respectively. By the time the defendants were rounded up, authorities said that more than 300 illegal shipments had been made.

Prosecutors accuse Goltsev of acquiring the parts from U.S. manufacturers and distributors by using aliases such as “Nick Stevens” and “Gio Ross,” while misinterpreting and omitting information about how the items would be used, the parties involved in the transactions, and the identities of the Russian end users. The items would then be shipped to Goltsev’s Brooklyn addresses, where he supervised their packaging and export without obtaining a license from the Bureau of Industry and Security.

As the defendants were taken into custody, prosecutors say they left behind a paper trail that not only indicated details of the conspiracy but also clear knowledge of the extent and nature of their roles. Additionally, returns from court-authorized search warrants seem to indicate that Goltsev had long-standing relationships with Russian military entities and procured weapons for them for more than 12 years, with Goltsev allegedly advising one of them them that “he fully understands that this [ordered electronic component] is military in nature.” In February 2023, Nasriddinov allegedly wished Goltsev “Happy Defender of the Fatherland,” referring to the holiday in Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union celebrating the armed forces. Goltsev responded, “happy holiday to you my friend, we are defending it in the way that we can,” followed by a smile emoji.

Other text messages indicate that patriotism was not the only motive. In January 2023, Goltsev complained to Puzyreva that making so many bank accounts was making his fingers ache from typing. “Lot’s of money?” Puzyreva responded. “We will get rich.”