Mueller moves toward sentencing for California man in Russia probe

Mueller moves toward sentencing for California man in Russia probe
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Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s team told a federal court on Tuesday that they want to press forward with the sentencing of Richard Pinedo, a California man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to identity fraud related to the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

“The parties respectfully request that the Court refer this case for the preparation of a pre-sentence investigation report,” according to the new court filings, which requested that the parties provide a joint status report by a June 28 deadline.

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"Defense counsel for Mr. Pinedo has reviewed and agreed with this report," read the documents, which were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Pinedo pleaded guilty to one count of identity fraud in February and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe.

A pre-sentence report is used to help prepare a judge to reach a sentencing decision by providing information like an individual's criminal history and details about their cooperation with authorities, among other relevant information.

Last week, Mueller's team also filed a similar court document that made the request to proceed with the sentencing of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who is cooperating with the special counsel after pleading guilty last year to lying to the federal investigators.

The two recent pre-sentence report filings signal that Mueller is looking to begin the sentencing process with some witnesses in his high-profile investigation. 

Mueller accused Pinedo of selling bank account numbers over the internet through an online service called “Auction Essistance,” which helped his buyers evade the security protocols that are used by online digital payment companies, according to the court documents.

The indictment alleges that Pinedo illegally handled “hundreds” of bank account numbers that were used to commit wire fraud against unnamed “Company 1" and that he “willfully and intentionally” avoided learning of the fraudulent identities of his clients, including one he knew was not in the U.S.

On the same day Pinedo’s guilty plea was unsealed, the Department of Justice also announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for using "information warfare" and other sophisticated tactics to sow discord during the 2016 presidential race.

The documents suggest Pinedo was involved in some way with the Russians' efforts, although it is unclear what role he played.

Mueller alleges that the Russians working for the Internet Research Agency and their co-conspirators “purchased credit card and bank account numbers from online sellers," according to the criminal indictment.

Russians used these PayPal accounts to establish fake U.S. personas and also bankroll the purchases of political advertisements, Mueller alleges.