Former Corona man, Air Force Reserve member pleads guilty to sending defense items to Russia

A former member of the Air Force Reserves pleaded guilty to smuggling defense items like thermal scopes and night vision goggles to people in Russia, the Justice Department announced Saturday.

Igor Panchernikov is a former resident of Corona who previously served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He's been in federal custody since July 2022, when he was extradited from Israel back to the U.S.

Panchernikov pleaded guilty to violating the Arms Export Control Act, under which someone needs a license from the State Department to move weapons and defense items out of the country. According to his plea agreement, Panchernikov conspired with accomplices in Illinois and Russia to ship tactical gear to Russia.

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The accomplices would purchase things like thermal rifle scopes, weapons sights, monoculars and night vision goggles online, and ship them to Panchernikov's Corona residence. He'd then inspect them before shipping them out. Of the 19 items sent to Panchernikov's residence, 17 of them were sent to a woman in Illinois who would then ship the items to Russia.

According to the plea agreement, Panchernikov shipped the last two items to Russia himself. He used fake names on the packages to cover his actions, and even hid the items inside other items, including in one case a drill press, the Justice Department said.

Panchernikov is scheduled to be sentenced in June. He faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. 

Two other suspects in this case, Elena Shifrin — the Illinois woman to whom Panchernikov shipped the other items to — and Vladimir Pridacha, also of Illinois, are bother in custody and have been charged in this case. Shifrin pleaded guilty back in February and is expected to be charged in the coming months. Pridacha pleaded not guilty, and will head to trial in August.

Two other defendants — Boris Polosin of Russia and Vladimir Gohman of Israel — also face charges but remain on the run.