There are times when it is difficult to distinguish organized crime from the actions of intelligence services . The line is fuzzy and its methods are common. This is one of these cases. It is the story of a conspiracy that straddles the field of international espionage and illicit profit motives. Its protagonists are two Russian citizens : a mysterious man who flies from Moscow to the United States under a declared identity (about which there is no trace before these events) and a compatriot who emigrated to America to make his fortune as a Tesla employee.
Tesla’s stock market value has soared 500% so far this year . The company is going through the sweetest moment in its history: it has recently become the largest manufacturer in the world by market capitalization. A success that has not gone unnoticed by the world of crime, which has set its sights on Elon Musk’s successful company looking to make its own August.
The objective? Apparently, take control of the computer networks of the automobile company (accounting, customers, R&D, etc.) with the aim of hijacking them and then demanding a ransom. However, the Russian criminal group’s plan was truncated when the Tesla employee, who had been offered a million dollars, decided to report to the FBI. The case, which has followed the channels of an incident of a criminal nature, is full of unknowns, doubts and chiaroscuro. Despite having received the treatment of a common crime, the agent in charge of the investigation (assigned to contain intelligence tasks in North American territory ) includes in his report that the alleged offender usesmethods and techniques of a field agent during intelligence operations.
In his report, the federal agent makes several notes in this regard. In addition, it deliberately omits sensitive information , about other large companies that allegedly would have been victims of the Russian organization before Tesla.
According to the FBI report, it is an operation planned from Russia that was intended to be carried out on North American territory . The first contact relevant to the case between the Tesla employee (about whom not much information about his identity is provided and who has the status of “confidential source” ) and the member of the Russian organization (identified as Kryuchkov in the affidavit of the FBI) was made through WhatsApp . However, both were old acquaintances since 2016 and had resumed communication through a third person (unidentified) at the end of July this year.
TWO OLD ACQUAINTANCES
When the protagonists resumed contact on WhatsApp, Kryuchkov told the Tesla employee his intention to visit him during a planned trip to the United States. Days later, Kryuchkov flew from Moscow to New York and entered the country legally on a tourist visa . In addition, he took advantage of his stop in the Big Apple to get several “clean” phone cards paid in cash.
Afterward, Kryuchkov flew from New York to San Francisco. From there, he traveled in a rented car to Nevada, where his compatriot who worked at Tesla resided.
The first meeting between the two took place on August 1. During the next three days, Kricuhkov was up to 5 times at the employee’s home .
During this time, both (in the company of several acquaintances of the worker) took the opportunity to go on excursions to nearby natural places. It was precisely in these escapades that Kryuchkov began to have suspicious behavior, as revealed in the FBI document.
“During the excursions, Kryuchkov expressly showed his desire not to appear in any photos, arguing that he did not need them to remember the beauty of the place. However, at the insistence of the rest of his fellow travelers, he ended up posing for a group picture. In addition Nor did he use his mobile phone during this time, “the report states.
According to the agent in charge of the case, assigned to counterintelligence tasks and with 15 years of experience in the force, “individuals involved in criminal activities often make an effort not to leave evidence about their locations , avoid surveillance systems and do not take Photos”.
During the trip, the assistants realized that Kryuchkov insisted on paying all expenses related to the escape. This young 27-year-old Russian justified his expense by claiming that he had won good money gambling at the casino .
“I know, thanks to my training and experience, that people involved in intelligence operations and criminal activities often spend money extravagantly in front of people who try to recruit or incorporate into their criminal activities,” says the federal agent.
At the end of this trip, Kryuchkov told the Tesla employee that he would like to “talk business” the next day.