10.10.18

Richard Pinedo sentenced in Mueller investigation

Robert Mueller.

A small fry caught up in the Russia probe gets his sentence.

Richard Pinedo, a 28-year-old California man caught up in the Mueller investigation, was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home detention on Wednesday.

Of the 32 people Robert Mueller has charged so far, Pinedo is probably the least significant or important, with no connection at all to Donald Trump or anyone in his orbit. He is, basically, a guy who committed large-scale identity fraud for the wrong people.

Pinedo had a shady online website that sold stolen US bank account numbers to help people circumvent PayPal’s identity verification features. And some of his customers just so happened to be Russians involved in the so-called “troll farm,” a social media propaganda effort to influence the 2016 campaign. The operation was mainly run from a group called the Internet Research Agency and financed by oligarch and Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin.

While Mueller’s team was digging into the troll farm’s finances last December, they executed a search warrant on Pinedo’s home. Pinedo then very quickly flipped — explaining what his business was and how it worked, and handing over records identifying his customers.

In contrast to George Papadopoulos, who Mueller’s team said provided them no “substantial” assistance, the special counsel has praised Pinedo’s cooperation. Pinedo’s “prompt acceptance of responsibility saved the government significant time and resources in the investigation,” Mueller’s prosecutors later wrote. About two months after the raid, Pinedo agreed to a plea deal, pleading guilty to one count of identity fraud.

The next day, Mueller indicted the Internet Research Agency, two other Russian companies, and 13 Russian individuals in connection with the troll farm. He alleged that they tried to interfere with the US election with social media posts, online ads, and rallies organized in the US — often to hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump’s.

Many expected this indictment would be the end of the “troll farm” story, since everyone involved was Russian and surely wouldn’t come to the US to face charges. But one company charged, Concord Catering, did decide to contest the indictment in US court. However, it seems that Mueller has largely handed off the matter to other prosecutors in the Justice Department.

Pinedo’s sentence is the third handed down in Mueller’s probe so far — and the longest. The two previous sentences, for Papadopoulos (14 days) and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan (30 days), were both for making false statements to investigators. Pinedo, however, pleaded guilty to a different crime, identity fraud. And now it seems his bit part in the Russia probe is over.

source: vox

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