scorecardAn accused Russian spy boasted that infiltrating the US was easy. He's now in prison after getting caught with files that blew his cover.
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An accused Russian spy boasted that infiltrating the US was easy. He's now in prison after getting caught with files that blew his cover.

Bethany Dawson   

An accused Russian spy boasted that infiltrating the US was easy. He's now in prison after getting caught with files that blew his cover.
PoliticsPolitics2 min read
  • Secret messages from court documents give a look into the wild life of an accused Russian spy.
  • The DOJ accuses Sergey Cherkasov of operating undercover in the US, and got a cache of his messages.

Court documents containing secret messages purporting to be between a Russian spy and his handler give a wild look into a decades-long cover story that later dramatically fell apart.

The messages were contained in charging documents made public by the Department of Justice, which is bringing an espionage case against Sergey Cherkasov.

The DOJ alleges that Cherkasov spent years building a false identity as a Brazilian called Viktor Muller Ferreira, which he used to sneak into the US.

One message in the complaint shows Cherkasov jubilant after getting accepted into a prestigious US university, where he hoped an international-relations course would get him access to privileged information on US foreign policy.

"Today we fucking drink!!!" he wrote, later adding "We fucking did it!!!"

Another message published by the Department of Justice celebrated that he would enter the US "with a status of a fucking top-dude with the fantastic work perspectives, citizenship perspectives."

However, despite his confidence in the cover story, in the years that followed, Cherkasov's luck ran out, the documents said.

After graduating from his US course — CNN reported it was at Johns Hopkins University — the DOJ said Cherkasov tried to get jobs in the US government, think tanks, and the media.

Ultimately, it said, he was accepted for an internship at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands — but was denied entry by Dutch security in April 2022 when he tried to take it up.

Not long after, he was arrested in Brazil, where he was charged with identity theft and fraud, the DOJ said.

From there, Brazilian agents found a huge cache of evidence which they shared with the FBI to build its case. He was later convicted in Brazil and given 15 years in prison.

Per the complaint, Cherkasov's was arrested with several hard drives and a phone, which were full of information detailing a cover story stretching back more than a decade.

His hard drives also held a map to a hiding place in Sao Paulo, per the documents.

Per the complaint, the phone led agents to Cherkasov's real name, to his mom, and to photos of him in Russian military uniform, which would be consistent with a job as a spy.

The complaint also included messages from after Cherkasov was detained, where he texted somebody described as a love interest boasting that he would soon be extradited to Russia — a reality that did not come true.

"Good news is that in 2 weeks my case is gonna be finished (like no revision of it, no appeal, like boom over)," he wrote.

"I dream a lot about our New Year - you and me in St. Petersburg in snow walking to the Winter Palace. All will be well [happy face image] [signed] Prisoner of War," he wrote.

The complaint said that the Russian government told Brazil that Cherkasov was wanted for drugs-trafficking, a claim the complaint describes as "dubious" and which the investigative outlet Bellingcat said was a pretense to get him back.

The DOJ accuses Cherkasov of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, using false documents, and lying to officials. It isn't clear how or when he could stand trial given his imprisonment in Brazil.




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