A Russian man called Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov pleaded guilty Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Reno to offering a Tesla employee $1 million to cripple the EV company’s battery plant in Nevada and steal trade secrets, AP reported.
During the trial, prosecutors claimed that Kriuchkov, 27, acted on behalf of co-conspirators abroad. The accused tried to use face-to-face bribery to recruit an insider to plant ransomware in Tesla's battery plant. This was deemed unusual as most threat actors operate from safe havens and do not get involved in face-to-face communications.
Luckily, the unnamed man that Kriuchkov tried to recruit reached out to Tesla and worked with the FBI to thwart the plot before any damage could take place. So far, prosecutors and the FBI have not alleged that Kriuchkov had any relation to the Kremlin.
“The swift response of the company and the FBI prevented a major exfiltration of the victim company’s data and stopped the extortion scheme at its inception,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid said in a statement. “This case highlights the importance of companies coming forward to law enforcement, and the positive results when they do so.”
Kriuchkov could have faced five years in prison and a $250,000 fine but under the terms of his written plea agreement, he will likely serve no more than 10 months.
Court documents indicate Kriuchkov was visiting the U.S. for more than five weeks last July and August on a Russian passport when he tried to commit his crime. He offered the Tesla employee he tried to recruit the opportunity to receive payments in the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
No one else was charged in the case however a criminal complaint did identify two individuals who go by the nicknames Kisa and Pasha. A third person was identified as Sasha Skarobogatov.