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Local Connection Found In Russia Indictments Filed By Mueller

SANTA PAULA (CBSLA)  -- Officials said Friday that it doesn't appear any Americans were involved knowingly in any of the illegal activity as charged by Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian meddling in the election and a possible link to the Trump campaign.

Thirteen Russians were indicted for criminal activity and accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

But there is still a local connection to the story.

CBS2's Randy Paige went to Santa Paula, where he says a resident there may hold the key to the money trail.

There was no sign of Richard Pinedo at his family's home Friday and his father had little to say as he walked back into the home that is listed as the location for Pinedo's online business -- Auction Essistance.[sic]

Said his father, "No comment."

Pinedo has admitted to federal investigators that he was selling bank account numbers that were created using stolen American identities.

"Apparently, he was basically stealing people's identifications and then using them to open bank accounts which he then provided to the Russians who are interested in having a place from which they could use the money without revealing who they really are," says Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson.

She says Pinedo was facing up to 15 years in prison but by agreeing to cooperate with the Mueller investigation he'll be looking at more like 12-18 months.

"He's key because he made it possible for the Russians to actually pose as American citizens and thereby fund their activities here in America," Levenson said.

Pinedo's father referred Paige to his son's attorney, who offered a written statement. It read in part:

"Mr. Pinedo sold bank information which allowed individuals to fraudulently verify and establish accounts with online financial institutions."

He went on to say, "Mr. Pinedo had absolutely no knowledge of the identities and motivations of any of the purchasers of the information he provided. To the extent that Mr. Pinedo's actions assisted any individuals, including foreign nationals, from interfering in the American presidential election was done completely without his knowledge or understanding."

According to his plea agreement, Pinedo has no criminal activity on his record -- at least not until now.

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