Russian-American Woman Charged with Acting as Illegal Russian Agent in the U.S.

The United States Justice Department charged a woman with a dual Russian-American citizenship on March 8 for acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government.

Elena Branson, 61, faces charges of acting and conspiring to act in the U.S. illegally as a Russian government agent, willfully failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, conspiring to commit visa fraud, and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint alleged that Branson worked on behalf of the Russian government and Russian officials from at least 2011 to advance Russian interests in the U.S.

According to the complaint, Branson coordinated meetings for Russian officials to lobby U.S. political officials and businesspersons, including inviting Donald Trump, who was a Republican presidential candidate at the time, or his daughter to a “Russia Forum New York” in 2016.

No evidence indicated that Trump or any of his children attended the meeting.

The complaint also alleged that Branson ran an organization called the Russian Center New York (RCNY) and received “tens of thousands of dollars in funding from the Russian government and have taken direct orders from Russian officials concerning events and public messaging.”

Branson received about $173,000 in total from the Russian government for her work with the RCNY, according to the complaint.

FBI agents interviewed Branson in September 2020 and she allegedly falsely claimed that Russian officials has never asked her to coordinate any meetings with U.S. political officials or business leaders.

Branson flew to Moscow about a month after the FBI conducted a search in her offices, the complaint said.

In an interview with state-controlled Russia Today in October 2021, Branson said she flew to Moscow because she thought it was highly likely she would be arrested in the U.S.

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