California Man Charged by Mueller Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Helping Russian Interference

Richard Pinedo sold fraudulent bank account information to Russian operatives.

Photo Credit: National Archives and Records Administration

California resident Richard Pinedo is the latest person to receive a prison sentence as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-related investigation.

On Wednesday, October 10, the former computer science student was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by six months of home confinement, for selling fraudulent bank account information to Russian operatives. Pinedo, now 28, had no connection to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, but according to federal prosecutors, he earned tens of thousands of dollars selling fraudulent bank account information to anonymous buyers from 2014-2017—and some of those buyers were Russian operatives linked to the Kremlin.

After Mueller’s probe led to Pinedo, he agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors—who have noted that when Pinedo sold fraudulent bank account information, he didn’t know that some of the people he was selling it to were Kremlin-connected operatives.

In an official statement, Pinedo said, “Never did it cross my mind that the services I was providing were to be used in crimes at the highest level. My life has been turned upside down.”

When U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Pinedo, he described his cooperation with prosecutors as “significant” but said that the “widespread scale” of his crimes merited at least some incarceration.

Pinedo’s attorney, Jeremy Lessem, told the court, “Mr. Pinedo obviously should have invested more thought into the possible nefarious intentions of those that sought his services. However, never in his wildest dreams could he have foreseen that providing bank account information to set up PayPal accounts could be used to interfere with a presidential election.”

Mueller’s Russia-related investigation has led to several of President Trump’s closest associates being convicted of or pleading guilty to major crimes. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, recently agreed to a plea deal and agreed to cooperate in the investigation after being convicted of multiple counts of tax fraud and bank fraud—and the prosecution’s star witness in Manafort’s trial, Rick Gates, was a Trump campaign aide who admitted to a long list of financial crimes in court.

Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pled guilty to multiple tax and bank fraud charges in August and has also been cooperating fully with federal prosecutors. And in September, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was sentenced to two weeks of incarceration and a $9500 fine after admitting to lying to the FBI.

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.