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Feds accuse two men of smuggling snowmachines to Russia via Alaska tour company

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Feds accuse two men of smuggling snowmachines to Russia via Alaska tour company

Jun 13, 2024 | 4:00 pm ET
By James Brooks
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Feds accuse two men of smuggling snowmachines to Russia via Alaska tour company
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Snowmachine is parked at the side of the road on March 10, 2024, in downtown Talkeetna. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Federal officials have indicted two men for allegedly attempting to smuggle 17 snowmachines to Russia via an Alaska-registered tour company and an intermediary in Hong Kong. 

The grand jury indictment was announced Wednesday, and the FBI arrested Sergey Nefedov and Mark Shumovich that same day.

Nefedov, who lives in Anchorage, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Alaska U.S. District Court, according to online court records.

A conviction would be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 

Online court documents did not list an attorney for the two men.

The indictment alleges that the two men engaged in a conspiracy to bypass American export restrictions on luxury goods. Those restrictions were put on Russia by President Joe Biden in March 2022 as a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It is a violation of … the sanctions imposed by Executive Order 14068 to export snow machines to Russia without the required export license,” the indictment says in part.

In a written statement, the FBI, Department of Commerce, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage said the indictments were coordinated through a special task force devoted to enforcing sanctions against Russia. 

“Today’s arrests are just the latest example of our aggressive efforts to enforce the export restrictions imposed on Russia following its brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” said Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod in the statement.

According to the indictment, Nefedov and Shumovich sought to buy 17 snowmachines and parts worth $475,000 from a handful of American distributors, then ship them to Russia through Hong Kong, claiming they were bound for Korea on behalf of an Alaska-licensed tour company called Alaska Sled Tours LLC. 

The indictment states that Shumovich had been involved in shipping snowmachines and parts to Russia before the sanctions. It said first attempted to bypass the restrictions in 2022 with his regular shipping company by sending them first to Hong Kong, but an employee “refused to ship the snowmachines, explaining … that companies that had previously shipped to Russia and now ship to China or Korea are facing delays and closer scrutiny, and that the employee did not believe the container would pass U.S. customs.”

Shumovich found a different shipping company, the indictment states, then “attempted to ship approximately $475,000 worth of snowmachines and associated parts to (a) Hong Kong-based company to fulfill an order for Alaska Sled Tours LLC.”

Electronic documents, including communications involving the two men and unidentified co-conspirators in China and Russia, show the vehicles were bound for Russia, the indictment states.

“This seizure of snowmachines and the coordinated investigation led to the disruption and identification of a transnational criminal network attempting to circumvent Russian sanctions,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in the Pacific Northwest.

Alaska U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker said in a written statement that his office intends “to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law and ensure U.S. export restrictions are enforced.”