By Logan Smith

DENVER (CBS4) — Tsvetan Kanev, 49, of Sofia, Bulgaria, was sentenced to two years in federal prison Friday for attempting to sell protected American technology to Russia’s space and military programs.

Kanev was accused of arranging the purchase of electronic components from a U.S. manufacturer in 2015 that were to be delivered, as Kanev stated, to the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

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However, the manufacturer became suspicious and contacted federal agents from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Counter-Proliferation Investigations Center (CPIC) in Colorado Springs.

Those agents went undercover and offered to complete the deals with Kanev. They ultimately determined Kanev planned to ship the components to Bulgaria through Finland, but the parts would be re-packaged into a suitcase once in Finland and exported to Russia.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney General Office’s in Denver, Kanev transferred nearly $235,000 into an undercover agent’s account in October 2015 to purchase a clock driver and random-access memory programmable multi-chip modules.

Three months later, he transferred another $122,000 in order to obtain a multiple analog-to-digital converter.

“The particular technologies he sought are designed for aerospace applications and controlled under U.S. Department of Commerce regulations for national security reasons,” the press release stated.

Kaven routed the payments to avoid scrutiny from banking authorities, fraudulently filled out documents to deceive the U.S. Customs authorities, asked the undercover agents to falsify documentation, and then paid those agents an additional $56,000 for their assumed risk.

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Kaven also acknowledged to the undercover agents that he knew what he was doing was illegal, according to the press release.

All money transferred to the agents was seized and forfeited to the U.S. government.

The case sat idle for three and a half years after Kaven’s indictment. Then, in January 2020, he was arrested in Germany and extradited to Colorado.

Kanev reached a plea agreement with Denver-based federal prosecutors in March. He pleaded guilty to one count of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). In exchange, prosecutors dropped a second such count and a third charge of smuggling goods.

The IEEPA has been used by U.S. presidents since 1977 to impose economic sanctions on foreign governments and terrorist organizations, according to a 2020 report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Because a U.S. manufacturer alerted the government to a suspicious foreign inquiry, transfers of American technology to the Russian military and space program were thwarted and this defendant was brought to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “This kind of public-private partnership is key to protecting American technology and national security.”


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Logan Smith