Rus­sian de­nied bid to bribe Tesla em­ployee

The Timaru Herald - - World -

A Rus­sian cit­i­zen ac­cused of of­fer­ing a Tesla em­ployee US$1 mil­lion to en­able a ran­somware at­tack at the elec­tric car com­pany’s plant in Ne­vada de­nied wrong­do­ing yes­ter­day be­fore a fed­eral mag­is­trate judge.

‘‘I’m not guilty,’’ Egor Igore­vich Kri­uchkov said in re­sponse to a charge of con­spir­acy to in­ten­tion­ally cause dam­age to a pro­tected com­puter.

He said ear­lier in the hear­ing that he wanted ‘‘to go through the whole process as fast as pos­si­ble.’’

Kri­uchkov, 26, also told US Mag­is­trate Judge Carla Bald­win that he knew the Rus­sian govern­ment was aware of his case. Au­thor­i­ties have not al­leged that Kri­uchkov has ties to the Krem­lin. Au­thor­i­ties ini­tially said he was 27.

The judge in Reno or­dered Kri­uchkov to re­main in fed­eral cus­tody pend­ing trial, sched­uled for De­cem­ber 1 but likely to be post­poned. A con­vic­tion could bring a sen­tence of five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine, said Ni­cholas Tru­tanich, US at­tor­ney in Ne­vada. De­por­ta­tion could fol­low a prison term. Court doc­u­ments say

Kri­uchkov was in the United States on a Rus­sian pass­port and a tourist visa when he tried to re­cruit an em­ployee of what was iden­ti­fies as ‘‘Com­pany A’’ to in­stall soft­ware en­abling a com­puter hack.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has ac­knowl­edged his com­pany was the tar­get of what he termed a se­ri­ous ef­fort to col­lect com­pany se­crets. Tesla has a mas­sive fac­tory near Reno that makes bat­ter­ies for elec­tric ve­hi­cles and en­ergy stor­age units. Com­pany of­fi­cials did not im­me­di­ately re­spond yes­ter­day to mes­sages.

Kri­uchkov is ac­cused of spend­ing more than five weeks meet­ing, drink­ing, trav­el­ling and com­mu­ni­cat­ing by in­ter­net chat app with the un­named em­ployee, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. Some meet­ings were mon­i­tored and recorded by the FBI. It was not clear from the doc­u­ments if money changed hands.

The plot was stopped be­fore any dam­age oc­curred, the FBI said.

Kri­uchkov spoke yes­ter­day in English and had a Rus­sian trans­la­tor avail­able.

His ap­pointed at­tor­neys, fed­eral public de­fend­ers Sylvia Irvin and Bran­don Jaroch, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to mes­sages about his court ap­pear­ance. – AP

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