The midterm elections have yielded their first criminal case – the Justice Department on Friday charged Russian accountant Elena Khusyaynora with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for her role in a plan to spend more than $10 million on social media ads and online posts to influence voters.
The criminal complaint, brought by prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., claimed that Khusyaynora, who is based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and reportedly works for the firm Concord, named by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in earlier indictments, sought with others to "to sow division and discord in the U.S. political system" and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a Justice Department release.
FBI Director Christopher Wray called the case “a stark reminder” that “foreign adversaries continue their efforts to interfere in our democracy by creating social and political division, spreading distrust in our political system, and advocating for the support or defeat of particular political candidates.”
The 2018 midterm effort is part of a larger initiative called Project Lakhta that stretches back to 2014. Khusyaynova, 44, was the chief accountant for the initiative, which the Justice Department said was backed by Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin as well as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering, both under his control.