A California man accused by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office of operating an online auction service for stolen identities was sentenced to one year in prison on Wednesday in a federal district court.
Richard Pinedo, who pleaded guilty to one count of identity fraud in February, could serve half the sentence at home, Judge Dabney Friedrich said.
The criminal charge against Pinedo was announced in February by Mueller’s office at the same time it announced an indictment against 13 Russians and three Russian companies on charges they adopted fake online personas to push divisive messages, travelled to the United States to collect intelligence and staged political rallies.
The indictment against the Russians makes no mention of Pinedo by name. However, a source familiar with the case told Reuters he is named in the charging documents as the person who helped the Russian conspirators launder money, as well as purchase Facebook ads and pay for rally supplies, through PayPal Holdings Inc.
No knowledge of Russian intentions: lawyer
Pinedo’s attorney, Jeremy Lessem, has said his client had no knowledge of the identities or the motivations of those who purchased the information he sold.
“This is something that is way beyond anything he could have possibly imagined he could be involved in,” Lessem told The Associated Press earlier this year.
According to the indictment against the 13 Russians, the defendants in 2016 used Social Security numbers and birth dates of real U.S. people to open PayPal accounts and to create fake driver licences and open social media accounts.
The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. However, one of the Russian companies charged in the indictment — Concord Management and Consulting LLC — has hired American attorneys to fight the charges.
Mueller’s investigation, initiated by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May 2017, is investigating any links or co-ordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, as well as any crimes uncovered in the course of that investigation.
The probe, which Trump has railed against, has led to indictments of nearly three-dozen individuals. While most have been Russian, onetime Trump associates Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos have agreed to guilty pleas to a variety of charges as a result of the investigation.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, also admitted guilt to finance campaign violations in a deal with authorities resulting from a case that was referred to federal prosecutors in New York by the Mueller team.
With files from CBC News and The Associated Press