US prosecutors have charged Elena Branson, who chaired the New York-based Russian Community Council of the USA, with acting and conspiring to be an agent of the Russian government and willfully failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
She also is charged with conspiring to commit visa fraud and making false statements to the FBI.
The 61-year-old Branson, a dual US/Russian citizen, allegedly since at least 2011 advanced the interests of the Russian government and its officials, coordinated meetings to lobby federal officials & businesspeople and operated organizations in the US to promote Russian policies.
The founder of the Russian Center in New York dealt with the highest officials in Russia’s government, such as president Vladimir Putin, to keep him updated on her efforts to mount an aggressive propaganda drive and recruitment effort of Russia’s diaspora, according to the March 8 statement from the US attorney’s office of the Southern District of New York.
Branson’s promotional campaign, called “I Love Russia,” was aimed at American youth and exemplified her efforts to act at the behest of the Russian governments, according to the feds.
The US complaint says Branson received money from Russia’s Embassy and actively hid that funding.
The Russian native “received tens of thousands of dollars from the Russian government for the Russian Center” and used it to host events and engage in public direction at the behest of Moscow, according to the Southern District.
The FBI interviewed Branson on September 29, 2020. Following the session, she left for Russia and remains at large.
She could receive a maximum of 35 years in prison.