Justice Department charges suspected Russian agent who studied in U.S., tried to infiltrate ICC

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The Department of Justice has filed charges against a Russian suspected of being an intelligence officer who attempted to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague with a bogus Brazilian passport.

In a nearly 50-page indictment filed March 24, the federal government accused Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, 37, of being an agent for the Russian Intelligence Service.

According to the indictment, Mr. Cherkasov used an alias of a Brazilian citizen named Victor Muller Ferreira and secured a student visa in October 2017 to study at a school in the D.C. area, identified in media reports as Johns Hopkins University.

Federal prosecutors said Mr. Cherkasov opened accounts at a U.S. bank under his Brazilian alias along with obtaining a Virginia state driver’s license. While reportedly a student at Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, he “further made connections to persons of interest in the United States and maintained communications with his [Russian Intelligence Service] handlers.”

Mr. Cherkasov also used his time studying in the U.S. to obtain information about noteworthy Americans that he passed to his handlers in Moscow, the Justice Department said.

He graduated in May 2020 and later used his credentials from the prestigious school to obtain a job with the International Criminal Court in 2022. But his Brazilian backstory had begun to unravel, and Mr. Cherkasov was denied entry to the Netherlands. He was flown to Brazil and has been charged there with fraud in relation to the false Victor Ferreira identity.

Moscow is seeking his extradition, publicly accusing Mr. Cherkasov of being involved in an extensive drug smuggling ring. But U.S. investigators say they don’t believe that story.

“The FBI currently has no evidence Cherkasov was ever involved in narcotics trafficking,” according to the federal indictment. “The Russian Federation request is based on false information to obtain the release of its illegal agent.”

In intelligence parlance, an “illegal” agent is someone who works without official cover, such as a diplomat at an embassy.

“For years, Cherkasov worked as an illegal agent for a Russian intelligence service and committed fraud against the United States,” David Sundberg, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a statement.

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