Prosecutors' memo seeking detention of Maria Butina

Federal prosecutors allege Russian national Maria Butina who was arrested this week on charges of being a foreign agent had ties to Russian intelligence operatives and was in contact with them while in the United States. Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina had ties to Russian intelligence agency, prosecutors say

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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v.
MARIIA BUTINA, also known as
MARIA BUTINA,
Defendant.

Criminal Case: 18-218 (TSC)

GOVERNMENTaS MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT
OF PRETRIAL DETENTION
Introduction
The United States of America, by and through the U.S. Attorney for the District of
Columbia, submits this memorandum in support of the defendantas pretrial detention.

As

explained below, and as the government will demonstrate at any hearing on this matter, Mariia
Butina (aButinaa or defendant) poses a serious risk of flight based on the nature of the charges,
her history of deceptive conduct, the potential sentence she faces, the strong evidence of guilt, her
extensive foreign connections, and her lack of any meaningful ties to the United States.
The defendant, a Russian citizen, stands charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. ASSASS 371 and
951(a),

for

her

role

in

a

covert

Russian

influence

operation

in

the

United

States.

The charges in this case implicate not only Butina, but also the activities of a senior

Russian Federation official, the individual identified as the Russian Official in the Indictment, who
is now a specially designated national. Given these circumstances, Butina presents an extreme
risk of flight.

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The defendantas legal status in the United States is predicated on deception. She not only
has deep ties to her country (with which the United States has no extradition treaty) but actually
works on behalf of the Russian government. FBI surveillance over the past week has confirmed
that Butina has access to funds and an intention to move money outside of the United States.
Butinaas closest tie to the United States is the individual identified as U.S. Person 1 in the
Indictment, but she appears to treat that relationship as simply a necessary aspect of her activities.
Her last tie to the District of Columbiaaher apartment leaseaends on July 31, 2018, and there
were boxes packed in her apartment consistent with a move at the time of her arrest on July 15,
2018. All of Butinaas known personal ties, save for those U.S. persons she attempted to exploit
and influence, reside in the Russian Federation.
Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that
she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from
the United States. In sum, the Court should grant the governmentas motion to detain Butina
pending trial.
Principles Governing Requests for Detention
Under the Bail Reform Act, courts consider the following factors in determining whether
some condition, or combination of conditions, will reasonably assure the defendantas appearance
at trial and pre-trial proceedings: the nature and circumstances of the charged offenses; the weight
of the evidence against the defendant; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the
nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or to the community that would be posed by
the defendantas release. 18 U.S.C. ASS 3142(g); see United States v. Bikundi, 47 F. Supp. 3d 131,
133 (D.D.C. 2014); United States v. Hong Vo, 978 F. Supp. 2d 41, 43 & n.1 (D.D.C. 2013).

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At a detention hearing, the government may present evidence by way of a proffer. See
United States v. Smith, 79 F.3d 1208, 1209-10 (D.C. Cir. 1996); United States v. Roberson, No.
15-cr-121, 2015 WL 6673834, at *1 (D.D.C. Oct. 30, 2015).

When the government seeks to

detain a defendant on the ground that the defendant is a risk of flight pursuant to 18 U.S.C. ASS 3142
(f)(2)(A), the government must demonstrate the defendantas flight risk by a preponderance of the
evidence. United States v. Xulam, 84 F.3d 441, 442 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
Factual Proffer of the Evidence Supporting the Charges
The conduct charged in the Indictment arises from the defendantas acting as an agent of the
Government of the Russian Federation. The United States proffers the factual allegations as set
out in the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint, which is attached hereto as Exhibit A and
incorporated herein.
In sum, the defendant engaged in a years-long conspiracy to work covertly in the United
States as an undeclared agent of the Russian Federation in order to advance the interests of her
home country. The plan was calculated, patient, and directed by the Russian Official. The
defendantas covert influence campaign involved substantial planning, international coordination,
and preparation. The plan for Butina also required, and she demonstrated, a willingness to use
deceit in a visa application to move to the United States and bring the plan to fruition.
Additional Information Supporting Detention
1. Butina Appears to Have Ties to the Russian Intelligence Services
The FBI has uncovered evidence during the course of executing several search warrants
that, during the course of her deployment to the United States, Butina was in contact with officials
believed to be Russian intelligence operatives. First, the defendant maintained contact information
for individuals identified as employees of the Russian FSB, the Federal'naya sluzhba bezopasnosti

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Rossiyskoy Federatsii, the main successor agency to the USSRas Committee of State Security, the
KGB. For example, in the defendantas electronic contact list, there was an email account listed at
an FSB-associated domain. Another document uncovered during the execution of a search warrant
contained a hand-written note, entitled aMariaas aRussian Patriots In-Waitinga Organization,a and
asking aHow to respond to FSB offer of employment?a Based on this and other evidence, the FBI
believes that the defendant was likely in contact with the FSB throughout her stay in the United
States. Additionally, FBI surveillance observed Butina in the company of a Russian diplomat in
the weeks leading up to that officialas departure from the United States in March 2018. That
Russian diplomat, with whom Butina was sharing a private meal, was suspected by the United
States Government of being a Russian intelligence officer. The concern that Butina poses a risk
of flight is only heightened due to her connection to suspected Russian intelligence operatives.
Moreover, like any sovereign nation, the Russian Federation has the ability to remove, or
exfiltrate, its citizens from foreign countries. And due to international law and treaty restrictions,
law enforcement would be prevented from stopping Butina from entering the Russian Embassy.
Under these circumstances, a passport would not be necessary for Butina to depart the jurisdiction
of the United States. Accordingly, even with a full combination of the most restrictive measures,
for example, (i) house arrest, (ii) electronic monitoring, (iii) high-intensity monitoring, (iv) any
monetary bond or agreement to forfeit property, (v) retained passport, and (vi) third party
custodian, the defendant need only seek refuge in a diplomatic facility, well before Pretrial
Services would ever be alerted, let alone be able to respond. Simply put, neither the Court nor
law enforcement could stop her or has any recourse or remedy, in the event Butina decided to seek
safe harbor in a diplomatic facility.

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2. Butina Was Considered a Covert Russian Agent by the Russian Official
FBI agents have also discovered messages between Butina and the Russian Official in
which the Russian Official likened Butina to one member of a ring of Russian covert agents who
were arrested in 2010. Specifically, in March 2017, after a series of media articles were published
about Butina, the following conversation ensued:
Russian Official: Good morning! How are you faring there in the rays of
the new fame?[] Are your admirers asking for your autographs yet? You
have upstaged Anna Chapman. She poses with toy pistols, while you are
being published with real ones. There are a hell of a lot of rumors
circulating here about me too! Very funny!
Butina: It is curious that only our liberal media published the translation of
the article. Yesterday I was pressing for an interview to Komsomolka but
they are silent. It was probably our [people] that stood up for me.
Russian Official: I only saw it in the Echo [of Moscow] Blog and on the
InoSMI site. What do you expect from the liberals anyway?!
Butina: Itas the other thing that is important: evidently, there is an Order not
to touch us. I believe it is a good sign.
Russian Official: For now a yes, but should things shift, then we are
guaranteed a spot on the list of aagents of influence.a . . .
Butina: Itas better to keep a low profile now. For some time. You probably
got in trouble because of that nasty leak? Sorry. . . .
(Translated from Russian.)
The FBI believes that in this communication, the Russian Official was referring to Anna
Vasilyevna Chapman, a Russian intelligence agent who gained notoriety after being arrested in
the United States in 2010. At the time of her arrest, Chapman was accused of acting on behalf of
the

Russian

Federation's

external

intelligence

agency,

the

Sluzhba

vneshney

razvedki (SVR). Chapman pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign

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government and she and the other Russians were deported to Russia on July 8, 2010, as part of a
Russia a U.S. prisoner swap.
The Twitter direct messages between Butina and the Russian Official also contain multiple
references to Butina acting covertly, such as the following exchange, from October 5, 2016, after
the Russian Official asked about the status of the aRussia-USA friendship societya:
BUTINA: Itas not alive. We are currently aundergrounda both here and
there. Now, private clubs and quite [sic] influence on people making
decisions is the trend. No publicity.
BUTINA: Advisor a is the profession of the current day. Even a secret
advisor. Right now the Administration here is flexible a and there is the
idea, so that the right thoughts would dominate.
The following exchange occurred just a week later, on October 12, 2016:
BUTINA: Donat do that! Take it easy on yourself. Important things are
ahead of us!
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL: In this sense, you probably shouldnat be going as an
observer from Russia. The risk of provocation is too high and the amedia
hypea which comes after it.
BUTINA: I agree! I did not even plan on it without you! Only incognito!
Right now everything has to be quiet and careful.
(Translated from Russian.)
On January 20, 2017, in response to a photo Butina sent to the Russian Official of her near the
U.S. Capitol on Inauguration Day, the Russian Official responded, aYouare a daredevil girl! What
can I say![]a Butina responded, aGood teachers![]a
Based on the Russian Officialas comments, the Court should conclude the defendant is
considered to be on par with other covert Russian agents.
circumstances increases immeasurably.

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Her risk of flight under these

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3. Butina Has Ties to the Russian Oligarchy
In addition to her ties to the Russian government, there is evidence that Butina is wellconnected to wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy. Her Twitter messages, chat logs, and
emails refer to a known Russian businessman with deep ties to the Russian Presidential
Administration. This person often travels to the United States and has also been referred to as her
afundera throughout her correspondence; he was listed in Forbes as having a real-time net worth
of $1.2 billion as of 2018. Immediately prior to her first trip to the United States in late 2014,
Butina engaged in a series of text messages with a different wealthy Russian businessman
regarding budgets for her trip to the United States and meetings with the aforementioned afunder.a
Individuals such as these wealthy businessmen could, through their wealth and influence, be in a
position to offer a safe harbor for Butina.
4. Butina Proposed Applying for a U.S. Student Visa as Part of the Operation
The FBI has uncovered electronic communications revealing Butinaas involvement in the
planning of the covert influence operation with U.S. Person 1. This series of communications
included a discussion about how Butina could best enter and remain in the United States. Butina
chose a student visa from a range of options for her ultimate application, but not before a lengthy
discussion of the risks associated with traveling to the United States repeatedly on a tourist visa.
The FBI has discovered text messages and emails between U.S. Person 1 and Butina in which
Butina would routinely ask U.S. Person 1 to help complete her academic assignments, by editing
papers and answering exam questions.

In other words, although she attended classes and

completed coursework with outside help, attending American University was Butinaas cover while
she continued to work on behalf of the Russian Official.

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It is not uncommon for agents of a foreign government to assume cover occupations,
including posing as students, while operating on behalf of the foreign power. It is notable that
Butina stated, under penalty of perjury, that she was no longer employed by the Russian Official
at the time she applied for her student visa. Butina likely only admitted her affiliation with the
Russian Official at all because she had been previously publicly linked with that Russian Official
in media reports. Her false attestation on the visa application was premediated and consistent with
her actions being part of a Russian operation.
5. Butinaas aTiea to the United States is a Duplicitous Relationship
During the course of this investigation, the FBI has determined that Butina gained access
through U.S. Person 1 to an extensive network of U.S. persons in positions to influence political
activities in the United States. Butina, age 29, and U.S. Person 1, age 56, are believed to have
cohabitated and been involved in a personal relationship during the course of Butinaas activities in
the United States. But this relationship does not represent a strong tie to the United States because
Butina appears to treat it as simply a necessary aspect of her activities. For example, on at least
one occasion, Butina offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position
within a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained
about living with U.S. Person 1 and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with U.S.
Person 1.
6. Butina Was Taking Steps to Leave the Washington, D.C., Area
Finally, in the days leading up to her arrest, Butina was observed by the FBI taking steps
consistent with a plan to leave the Washington, D.C., area and possibly the United States. First,
Butina applied for a B1/B2 visa, which would allow her to travel to and from the United States.
On July 14, 2018, Butina and U.S. Person 1 were followed to a U-Haul truck rental facility where

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they inquired about renting a moving truck and purchased moving boxes. When agents executed
a warrant at their Washington, D.C., apartment on July 15, 2018, the defendantas belongings were
packed and a letter was discovered notifying the landlord that the lease was to be terminated on
July 31, 2018.
In addition, on July 12, 2018, Butina and U.S. Person 1 were observed entering a bank in
Washington, D.C., and sending an international wire transfer in the amount of $3,500 to an account
in Russia. Although the government does not proffer that it knows the purpose of that transfer at
this point, the amount shows her access to funds, and the location of the recipient underscores her
ties to Russia.
Even if Butina were only trying to leave the immediate Washington, D.C., area, her sole
real tie to the United States at all is U.S. Person 1, who, as the affidavit in support of the complaint
demonstrates, was instrumental in aiding her covert influence operation, despite knowing its
connections to the Russian Official.
No Condition or Combination of Conditions Will Reasonably Assure the
Defendantas Appearance in Court
1. Nature and Circumstances of the Offense(s) Charged
The circumstances of the offenses charged in this case overwhelmingly support detention.
By its very nature, this case involves charges against a foreign national whose demonstrated
allegiance is to Russia. Her strong incentive is to retreat to Russia where she will never be required
to submit to the jurisdiction or orders of a United States court.
The charges in the Indictment are properly characterized as serious due to the possible
statutory penalties; the duration and complexity of the criminal conduct; and the fact that the
charges include multiple layers of deceit, including misleading statements to the U.S. State
Department. See United States v. Anderson, 384 F. Supp. 2d 32, 39 (D.D.C. 2005) (defendantas
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ahistorical unwillingness to be forthright in his dealings with government officialsa relevant to
flight risk).
The possible maximum terms of imprisonment that the defendant faces upon conviction
provide an incentive to flee. See United States v. Townsend, 897 F.2d 989, 995 (9th Cir. 1990).
The defendant faces ten years of imprisonment on the charge of a violation of 18 U.S.C. ASS 951 and
five years of imprisonment for violating 18 U.S.C. ASS 371. Courts have repeatedly held that with
serious charges and the possibility of considerable punishment comes aa substantial incentive to
flee the United States.a See Hong Vo, 978 F. Supp. 2d at 43 (finding detention appropriate for
defendant facing stiff penalties for bribery and visa fraud). Simply put, Butina has no incentive to
appear before this Court and submit to the jurisdiction of the United States.
2. The Weight of Evidence Against the Defendant
Courts also consider the weight of the evidence in assessing the risk of light.
18 U.S.C. ASS 3142(g)(2). The weight of the evidence against the defendant is substantial. The FBI
has acquired email and other electronic evidence documenting Butinaas work on behalf of Russia,
including taskings, reporting, and attempts to be aincognito.a

The evidence establishes that

Butinaas purpose for coming to the United States was to work on behalf of the Russian Federation.
Further, numerous witnesses will testify about the influence activities described in the complaint.
3. The History and Characteristics of the Defendant
The defendantas history and characteristics likewise support pretrial detention. Butina is a
Russian citizen with no meaningful ties to the United States; she has every reason to flee this
prosecution. Butina entered the United States with the express purpose of working as part of a
covert Russian influence campaign and did not disclose that factanot on her visa application and

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not to the Attorney General. The Court should have no confidence that she would abide by any
conditions of release, and the Court has no recourse to assure her appearance.
For obvious reasons, courts routinely find a serious risk of flight where, as here, a foreignnational defendant has few or no ties to the United States. See, e.g., United States v. Kachkar, 701
F. Appax 744, 747 (11th Cir. 2017); United States v. Frater, 356 F. Appax 133, 135 (10th Cir.
2009); United States v. Hussain, 6 F. Appax 50, 51-52 (1st Cir. 2001); United States v. Townsend,
897 F.2d 989, 996 (9th Cir. 1990).
Conclusion
The defendant is a foreign agent who loyally acted on behalf of the Russian government.
Based on the nature of the charges and the weight of the proffered evidence against the defendant,
no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant
at trial. Under the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. ASS 3142(g), the government has demonstrated by a
preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is a flight risk.

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For the foregoing reasons, as well as those that the government will demonstrate at any
hearing on this matter, the government requests that the Court order the pre-trial detention of the
defendant.
Respectfully submitted,
JESSIE K. LIU
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
D.C. Bar Number 472845

By: ________/s/_________________
ERIK M. KENERSON
Assistant United States Attorney
Ohio Bar Number 82960
United States Attorneyas Office
555 Fourth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Telephone: 202-252-7201
Email: Erik.Kenerson@usdoj.gov

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