One of 10 Idahoans charged in alleged iPhone fraud ring agrees to plea deal

One of the 10 defendants in a federal case alleging a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme has agreed to plead guilty.

A plea agreement was filed under seal last Wednesday evening for defendant Artur Pupko. No deals had been filed as of Tuesday morning for the other nine defendants in the case.

A public federal-court record repository listed the plea deal as a “document,” but the Statesman was able to determine it was a plea deal by viewing a separate public data source.

A grand jury in August 2018 indicted Pupko on federal charges, along with Pavel, Gennady, Piotr, Timofey, Kristina and Natalya Babichenko; Anna and Mikhail Iyerusalimets and David Bibikov.

Prosecutors accused them of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit trademarked goods, and money laundering conspiracy.

Prosecutors say the defendants ran a multimillion-dollar operation to sell counterfeit Apple and Samsung phones and accessories — smuggling the fakes into the U.S. from Hong Kong and China, repackaging them in the Treasure Valley, then reselling them on Amazon and eBay as new and genuine.

The defendants also are accused of laundering millions of dollars in the process. They bought vehicles, houses, commercial properties and seven residential apartment buildings in Brazil and had several dozen bank accounts, the indictment said.

If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud counts; and up to 10 years in prison and a $5 million fine on the counterfeit trademark goods trafficking counts.

Since Pupko’s plea agreement is sealed, the terms of the deal are unknown. The agreement likely will be unsealed after Pupko appears before the judge for a change-of-plea hearing. Pupko would be sentenced at some point after that.

The case is scheduled for trial starting Oct. 5, 2020.

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Watchdog reporter Audrey Dutton joined the Statesman in 2011. Before that, she covered finance policy in Washington, D.C., during the financial crisis. She also worked as a reporter in Maryland, Minneapolis and New York. Audrey hails from Twin Falls.