US prosecutors: Bribes used to hide Russian kickback scheme

Prosecutors say a Russian businessman accused of a murder plot bribed authorities in his home country to drop an investigation into a military kickback scheme

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A businessman accused of defrauding the Russian military through a $150 million kickback scheme thwarted a criminal investigation in his home country by paying off authorities there, U.S. prosecutors said in a recent court filing.

Leonid Teyf is being prosecuted in the U.S. on charges that he illegally stashed millions in domestic banks and plotted to kill a man suspected of having an affair with his wife. Prosecutors' arguments that Teyf is a flight risk helped persuade a North Carolina-based federal judge to order Tuesday that the 57-year-old remain jailed pending trial.

"Teyf operates in a covert manner, has people who will do his bidding, has family and property in multiple foreign countries, has extensive funds, has used these funds to bribe foreign officials," prosecutors wrote in the filing Friday. It added that Teyf "is able to influence law enforcement in Russia."

The written arguments provide new details on the unusual case centering on a man who had lived a lavish life of expensive artwork and luxury cars in a mansion along a Raleigh golf course. Prosecutors have previously said that Teyf used his position as an executive with a military supplier to extract kickbacks from subcontractors seeking to do business with Russia's armed forces.

Teyf's lawyers have said the charges against their client are based on questionable legal theories, and argue that chronic health problems support his request to be released pending trial. They note their client has lived in the U.S. for nearly a decade without a criminal record, writing that: "detention of Mr. Teyf does not make anyone safer."

But prosecutors argue that he has a history of violent threats, along with the means and incentive to flee. A confidential source told authorities that Teyf had asked the person to "'take care' of someone or put them in a hospital," according to prosecutors, who wrote last week that he had wanted to harm an employee suspected of stealing and another person to whom Teyf owed money.

Prosecutors wrote that "violence is Teyf's manner of resolving conflict."

The court documents from last week also state that Teyf, a citizen of five countries, owns apartments in several Russian cities "as well as a 'compound' outside of Moscow ... including the main home, outbuildings, and security personnel."

Russian authorities had probed the alleged kickback scheme with the aim of prosecuting Teyf, but he "bribed Russian officials to drop this investigation," according to U.S. prosecutors who cite confidential informants.

Federal authorities have accused him of wiring approximately $39 million into U.S. bank accounts since at least 2010 and setting up U.S. companies to launder money. They wrote last week that he "keeps extensive amounts of cash on hand at various locations," including a Raleigh apartment "that had next to nothing in it except a safe with money and guns."

Prosecutors have said Teyf believed his wife was having an affair with the son of a former live-in housekeeper and asked a confidential source to help him plot the man's death.

He mused last September about pulling the trigger himself, according to the new documents, which quote him as telling the source: "I am about to lose it. ... I am ready to tell you already, 'pull him out, take him somewhere far, I'll come there with a gun and ... whack him.'"

Authorities said Teyf ultimately supplied the confidential source with a firearm, but the killing was never carried out.

Teyf faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of bribery, firearm and murder-for-hire charges. Several others including his wife have also been charged by U.S. authorities.

District Judge Louise Wood Flanagan has proposed an April trial date for Teyf.


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