Skip to Content Facebook Feature Image

Florida A&M, a dubious donor and $237M: The transformative HBCU gift that wasn’t what it seemed

News

Florida A&M, a dubious donor and $237M: The transformative HBCU gift that wasn’t what it seemed
News

News

Florida A&M, a dubious donor and $237M: The transformative HBCU gift that wasn’t what it seemed

2024-06-14 21:38 Last Updated At:21:41

NEW YORK (AP) — It would have been the largest-ever private gift to a historically Black college or university: $237 million — far beyond the recipient’s endowment. The money was promised by a 30-year-old who had recounted his rise from a childhood in foster care to becoming, as he put it, Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer.”

And so, the first weekend of May, Florida A&M University celebrated Gregory Gerami’s extraordinary contribution with all the necessary pomp. He spoke at commencement. Regalia-clad administrators posed with a jumbo check. Gerami even assured the audience that “the money is in the bank.”

More Images
This image made from video provided by WCTV shows Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas' "youngest African American industrial hemp producer," fourth from left, and Florida A&M University president Larry Robinson pose with a ceremonial check while being surrounded by other university officials during a commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. The $237 million donation was promised by Gerami, but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (WCTV via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — It would have been the largest-ever private gift to a historically Black college or university: $237 million — far beyond the recipient’s endowment. The money was promised by a 30-year-old who had recounted his rise from a childhood in foster care to becoming, as he put it, Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer.”

A large mascot of a rattlesnake is on display in front of the student success center at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

A large mascot of a rattlesnake is on display in front of the student success center at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

The Florida A&M University campus is seen in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

The Florida A&M University campus is seen in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Lee Hall sits atop the hill at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Lee Hall sits atop the hill at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

This image made from video provided by WCTV shows Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas' "youngest African American industrial hemp producer," third from left, and Florida A&M University president Larry Robinson pose with a ceremonial check while being surrounded by other university officials during a commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. The $237 million donation was promised by Gerami, but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (WCTV via AP)

This image made from video provided by WCTV shows Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas' "youngest African American industrial hemp producer," third from left, and Florida A&M University president Larry Robinson pose with a ceremonial check while being surrounded by other university officials during a commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. The $237 million donation was promised by Gerami, but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (WCTV via AP)

It wasn't, and it may never be.

Following public backlash over its apparent failure to properly vet Gerami and the donation, FAMU said the gift is now on pause — dashing expectations of increased financial stability for the 137-year-old institution and its 9,000 students. Gerami maintains everything will ultimately work out, but other small universities he approached with proposals for major donations never got any money.

Gerami contacted Florida A&M’s development office about a donation last fall, according to Shawnta Friday-Stroud, then-vice president for university advancement. University officials, including President Larry Robinson and Athletic Director Tiffani-Dawn Sykes, began meeting with him virtually shortly thereafter.

In January, Atlanta's Spelman College publicized a $100 million gift — then considered the single largest donation to any HBCU. FAMU officials say Gerami wanted to surpass that figure. They ultimately agreed it would come through 14 million shares in his fledgling industrial hemp company.

However, the value of the company — and those shares — remains unclear.

Gerami founded Batterson Farms Corp in 2021 with aspirations of becoming a leading hemp plastics producer. While Texas Department of Agriculture records confirm the company is licensed to grow hemp, little else suggests that's happening.

The company's website is sparse. Affiliate links to purchase HempWood products were broken and the shopping cart payment function failed when an Associated Press reporter visited the site in late May and early June. A confusing message to investors also warned of late fees for failing to complete monthly payments on time.

Kimberly Sue Abbott, a founding board member who told the AP that she was incorrectly listed as co-CEO, cast doubt on Gerami’s self-reported value of the shares and said Batterson Farms “is not farming any hemp anywhere that I’m aware of.”

She and Gerami met around 2013 during her time on the Birmingham City Council in Alabama. She felt he needed guidance on how to “do something good with his money.” He has since invited her to partake in various ventures — none of which lasted, she said.

“He never holds to a schedule. The information that he has is always flawed somehow. Technicalities are always an issue,” she said.

Greg Wilson, HempWood's founder, confirmed that Gerami is a customer but said he doesn't buy much. High interest rates have dampened both home sales and interest in remodeling with products like his, Wilson said, making it a bad time for wood-alternative businesses.

Gerami described Abbott's characterizations as “inaccurate” and outdated. Without answering whether or not Batterson Farms is growing hemp, he said his company acts as an intermediary between farmers and consumers. He refused to provide specifics about the company's contracts, revenue and staffing.

He also claimed that a third-party developer created the company's website, which he said was never intended to be a place where people could directly buy flooring.

Florida A&M officials have shared little about their knowledge of Gerami or their vetting process.

Friday-Stroud told FAMU Foundation board members last month that an “expansive screening” into Gerami's background produced the same information that ended up “on social media,” apparently referencing online upset over his previous reported donation attempts and his company's obscurity.

Still, she said, they moved forward after looping in Robinson. Friday-Stroud signed a nondisclosure agreement on behalf of the foundation board on April 26 at Gerami’s request, according to a copy obtained by AP.

They also announced the donation while awaiting a still outstanding independent appraisal of the private stock’s worth, which Gerami said he assessed based on existing but undisclosed sales contracts.

Officials have acknowledged that the appraisal could return with a much lower valuation.

Stock donations and NDAs are not abnormal for university advancement offices. However, according to some higher education fundraisers, such donations usually come from wealthy shareholders of reputable public companies and NDAs should include the entire foundation board.

“You want to make certain those resources are available, always, before you make the announcement,” said W. Anthony Neal, a longtime HBCU fundraiser who dealt with Gerami in the past. “Because you don’t want to come back with egg on your face.”

Companies typically get what’s known as a 409A valuation from an independent third party before gifting shares, said Bob Musumeci, an Indiana University business professor with a background in corporate finance.

Equity ownership, employee numbers, financial projects and other details all factor into the assessment. Outside investments from things like a family trust can also boost a company's worth beyond what sales numbers — and public data, if available — might suggest.

Gerami didn’t break any laws by flouting that norm, Musumeci said, but the fact that the gift wasn't properly assessed before being publicized is questionable.

“I would certainly be cautiously pessimistic about it. But I can’t say whether it is or it isn’t,” he said of the valuation's accuracy.

Both FAMU and Gerami have said the transfer of the stock certificates between their respective accounts took place in April.

A spokesperson for Carta, the equity management company they say completed the exchange, would only confirm that the platform notified Gerami on May 14 that his contract was terminated over “misrepresentations” he'd made. They declined to comment on FAMU's assertion that it had an account with Carta and Gerami's claim that the company sent documentation confirming the transfer.

Florida A&M is not the first school to receive a pitch from Gerami.

Neal, the HBCU fundraiser, was overseeing a $3.4 million fundraising campaign in 2023 for the 150th anniversary of Wiley University in Marshall, Texas, when Gerami reached out. They discussed funding for new campus facilities in the $1 million to $2 million range, Neal said, and he began the “normal vetting process” as the senior vice president of institutional advancement at the time.

But not a lot of information surfaced. After at least seven conversations, Neal sought a one-on-one meeting to verify Gerami's legitimacy in person. Communications subsequently dropped off.

“Sometimes donors just pull out,” Neal said. “Doesn't mean anything bad.”

However, three years prior, Coastal Carolina University also withdrew from a $95 million contribution made by an anonymous donor because he had “not fulfilled an early expectation of the arrangement,” according to a press release.

While CCU declined to name the anonymous donor in an email to AP, Gerami was identified as the benefactor last spring by The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Gerami told AP that he “considered” as many as 15 colleges and universities in recent years as part of a strategy to establish research partnerships that he said would make his company eligible for grants. Though Gerami did not disclose the names of those schools, those documented are all small institutions with scant endowments. He said he eyed institutions that needed funding and had the capacity for hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil.

The fallout at FAMU is palpable.

The school ended its engagement with Gerami. Friday-Stroud resigned. University trustees — surprised they were left in the dark throughout the six-month process — approved a third-party investigation that state officials have joined.

Speaking May 15 before the trustees, Robinson described the announcement of Gerami’s gift as “premature at best.”

“I saw in this unprecedented gift the potential to serve our students and our athletic programs in ways unimaginable at that time,” Robinson said. “I wanted it to be real and ignored the warning signs along the way.”

Days after announcing the donation, Robinson withdrew a $15 million request to a local economic development board to enhance FAMU’s football stadium, according to records obtained by AP.

While he did not give a reason and the university declined to comment, the gift agreement shows a one-time $24 million allocation of Gerami’s donation for athletics facilities.

Millions annually were also supposed to fund scholarships, the nursing school and a student business incubator over the next decade.

The public embarrassment has worried some HBCU supporters, who hope the outsize negative attention won’t dampen an otherwise resurgent fundraising atmosphere.

“As somebody that wants HBCUs to always succeed, this is really heartbreaking because there was so much excitement,” said Marybeth Gasman, an education researcher at Rutgers University and three-time HBCU board member. “Just real, real excitement for just a transformative gift of this magnitude.”

There was a time when HBCUs might have had to gamble on an unknown miracle donor, but Gasman said that’s less common now. Long overlooked by foundations and underfunded by some states, the schools have courted and gained newfound corporate interest in recent years.

Still, public funding disparities persist. Historically Black land-grant universities in 16 states missed out on $12.6 billion over the past three decades — including $1.9 billion that should have gone to FAMU — according to a 2023 Biden administration analysis.

For his part, Gerami believes the questions over his donation are unnecessary “whack-a-mole.” He admitted the sum of his donation was his own estimate, but said he expects an independent valuation will confirm the shares' worth within the month. He said he also believes FAMU will accept the gift once its independent probe is complete.

“Until a third-party valuation is done, this is all speculation,” Gerami said.

“We want to tread very carefully because we do not want to play games that lead to speculation without actual, factual information,” he added.

Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

This image made from video provided by WCTV shows Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas' "youngest African American industrial hemp producer," fourth from left, and Florida A&M University president Larry Robinson pose with a ceremonial check while being surrounded by other university officials during a commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. The $237 million donation was promised by Gerami, but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (WCTV via AP)

This image made from video provided by WCTV shows Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas' "youngest African American industrial hemp producer," fourth from left, and Florida A&M University president Larry Robinson pose with a ceremonial check while being surrounded by other university officials during a commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. The $237 million donation was promised by Gerami, but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (WCTV via AP)

A large mascot of a rattlesnake is on display in front of the student success center at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

A large mascot of a rattlesnake is on display in front of the student success center at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

The Florida A&M University campus is seen in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

The Florida A&M University campus is seen in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Lee Hall sits atop the hill at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Lee Hall sits atop the hill at the Florida A&M University campus in Tallahassee, Fla., Thursday, June 6, 2024. $237 million donation to FAMU was promised by Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas’ “youngest African American industrial hemp producer,” but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

This image made from video provided by WCTV shows Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas' "youngest African American industrial hemp producer," third from left, and Florida A&M University president Larry Robinson pose with a ceremonial check while being surrounded by other university officials during a commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. The $237 million donation was promised by Gerami, but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (WCTV via AP)

This image made from video provided by WCTV shows Gregory Gerami, a 30-year-old who called himself Texas' "youngest African American industrial hemp producer," third from left, and Florida A&M University president Larry Robinson pose with a ceremonial check while being surrounded by other university officials during a commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. The $237 million donation was promised by Gerami, but everything was not what it seemed and the donation is now in limbo. Gerami maintains that everything will work out, but FAMU is not the only small university that has engaged with his major donation proposals only to see them go nowhere. (WCTV via AP)

Treason cases were rare in Russia 30 years ago, with only a handful brought annually. In the past decade and especially since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, however, the number has soared, along with espionage prosecutions.

They are ensnaring citizens and foreigners alike. Recent victims range from Kremlin critics and independent journalists to veteran scientists working with countries that Moscow considers friendly.

One rights group counted over 100 known treason cases in 2023, with probably another 100 that nobody knows about.

The prosecutions have raised comparisons to the show trials and purges under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s.

They are usually held in strict isolation in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, their trials are held behind closed doors and almost always result in convictions and long prison terms. They are investigated almost exclusively by the powerful Federal Security Service, or FSB, with specific charges and evidence shrouded in secrecy.

These cases stand apart from the unprecedented crackdown on dissent under President Vladimir Putin, who in 2022 urged security services to “harshly suppress the actions of foreign intelligence services (and) promptly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs.”

Some key takeaways of this trend of prosecuting high crimes:

Mass anti-government protests erupted in Moscow in 2011-12, with officials blaming the West. The legal definition of treason was then expanded to include providing vaguely defined “assistance” to foreign countries or organizations, effectively exposing to prosecution anyone in contact with foreigners.

The changes to the law were heavily criticized by rights advocates, including the Presidential Human Rights Council. Putin later agreed with council members that “there shouldn’t be any broad interpretation of what high treason is.”

But that broad interpretation was exactly what the authorities began applying — especially after 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine, threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in the eastern part of the country, and fell out with the West for the first time since the Cold War.

Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven in the western region of Smolensk, contacted Ukraine’s Embassy in Moscow in 2014, saying she thought Russian troops from a nearby base were heading to eastern Ukraine. She was arrested in 2015 on treason charges under the law's expanded definition.

The case drew national attention and outrage. Russia at the time denied its troops were involved in eastern Ukraine, and the case against Davydova directly contradicted that narrative. The charges against her were eventually dropped in what turned out to be a rare exception to the increasing cases that in subsequent years consistently ended in convictions and prison terms.

Prosecution targets included journalists writing about Russia's military, as well as eminent scientists in fields that could have applications in weapons development. Professional groups say the scientists are punished for publishing articles in journals and participating in international projects that usually are part of their normal work.

Among them:

— Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the Roscosmos space agency and a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason in 2022 and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. He denied the charges, and his prosecution was widely seen as retaliation for his reporting on the military.

— Physicist Dmitry Kolker was arrested on treason charges in Novosibirsk in 2022, taken by the FSB from a hospital while suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer. Kolker, 54, had studied light waves and gave several approved lectures in China. He “wasn't revealing anything (secret) in them,” said his son, Maksim. Shortly after the scientist was taken to Lefortovo Prison, the family was told he had died in a hospital.

— Valery Golubkin, a physicist specializing in aerodynamics who is now 71, was arrested in 2021 and convicted of treason in 2023. His state-run research institute was working on an international project of a hypersonic civilian aircraft, and he was asked by his employer to help with reports on the project. His 12-year sentence was upheld despite appeals, and his family now can only hope for his release on parole.

— Physicist Anatoly Maslov, 77, who was working on hypersonics, was convicted of treason in May and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Treason or espionage cases involving writers, journalists and others:

— Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition politician, was charged with treason in 2022 after giving speeches in the West that were critical of Russia. After surviving what he believed were attempts to poison him in 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza was convicted last year and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

— The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich was arrested in 2023 on espionage charges, the first American reporter so accused since the Cold War. Gershkovich, whose trial began in June, denies the charges, and the U.S. government has declared him wrongfully detained.

— Ksenia Khavana, 33, was arrested on treason charges in Yekaterinburg in February, accused of collecting money for Ukraine’s military. The dual Russian-U.S. citizen had returned from Los Angeles to visit relatives, and the charges reportedly stem from a $51 donation to a United States-based charity that helps Ukraine.

— Paul Whelan, a U.S. corporate security executive who traveled to Moscow to attend a wedding, was arrested in 2018 and convicted of espionage two years later, and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He denies the charges.

Some cases involving scientists can probably be traced to a Putin speech in 2018, when he touted Russia's hypersonic weapons program. The security services may want to show the Kremlin that Russia's scientific advances are so impressive that foreign powers want to go after them, lawyer Evgeny Smirnov says.

If a security service wants to authorize surveillance or a wiretap on a subject, it's far easier to get authorities to approve such measures if it's for a treason case, said Andrei Soldatov, a journalist and expert on the FSB.

Smirnov says the rise in prosecutions came after the FSB allowed its regional branches in 2022 to pursue certain kinds of treason cases, and officials in those areas sought to curry favor with their superiors to advance their careers.

Above all, Soldatov said, is the FSB’s genuine belief of “the fragility of the regime” at a time of a political turmoil — either from mass protests, as in 2011-12, or now amid the war in Ukraine.

“They sincerely believe (the regime) can break,” even if it’s really not the case, he said.

FILE - Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, listens to a verdict that found him guilty of espionage in Moscow, Russia, on June 15, 2020. Whelan, a U.S. corporate security executive who traveled to Moscow to attend a wedding, was arrested in 2018. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison and denies the charges. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP, File)

FILE - Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, listens to a verdict that found him guilty of espionage in Moscow, Russia, on June 15, 2020. Whelan, a U.S. corporate security executive who traveled to Moscow to attend a wedding, was arrested in 2018. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison and denies the charges. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP, File)

FILE - Ksenia Karelina, also known by the last name of Khavana, sits in a defendant’s cage in a court in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Thursday, June 20, 2024. The dual Russian-U.S. citizen was arrested on treason charges in Yekaterinburg in February after returning from Los Angeles to visit relatives, and the charges reportedly stem from her $51 donation to a U.S. charity that helps Ukraine. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Ksenia Karelina, also known by the last name of Khavana, sits in a defendant’s cage in a court in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Thursday, June 20, 2024. The dual Russian-U.S. citizen was arrested on treason charges in Yekaterinburg in February after returning from Los Angeles to visit relatives, and the charges reportedly stem from her $51 donation to a U.S. charity that helps Ukraine. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is escorted from court after a pre-trial hearing in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges during a reporting trip to the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. He, his employer and the U.S. government have vehemently denied the charges, and Washington has declared him wrongfully detained. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is escorted from court after a pre-trial hearing in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges during a reporting trip to the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. He, his employer and the U.S. government have vehemently denied the charges, and Washington has declared him wrongfully detained. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza is escorted to a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 8, 2023. Kara-Murza, an opposition politician, was charged with treason in 2022 after giving speeches in the West that were critical of Russia. He rejected the charges as politically motivated. He was convicted last year and given a 25-year prison term, the harshest sentence handed to a Kremlin critic in post-Soviet Russia. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza is escorted to a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 8, 2023. Kara-Murza, an opposition politician, was charged with treason in 2022 after giving speeches in the West that were critical of Russia. He rejected the charges as politically motivated. He was convicted last year and given a 25-year prison term, the harshest sentence handed to a Kremlin critic in post-Soviet Russia. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - In this photo released by the Moscow City Court Press Service, Valery Golubkin, a physicist specializing in aerodynamics, stands in a defendant’s cage in a court in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, June 26, 2023. Golubkin, 71, was arrested in 2021 and convicted of treason in 2023 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing state secrets abroad, but he and his lawyers insisted he merely submitted research reports on an international project that didn’t contain any state secrets and were cleared for submission. (Moscow City Court Press Service via AP, File)

FILE - In this photo released by the Moscow City Court Press Service, Valery Golubkin, a physicist specializing in aerodynamics, stands in a defendant’s cage in a court in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, June 26, 2023. Golubkin, 71, was arrested in 2021 and convicted of treason in 2023 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing state secrets abroad, but he and his lawyers insisted he merely submitted research reports on an international project that didn’t contain any state secrets and were cleared for submission. (Moscow City Court Press Service via AP, File)

FILE - In this photo taken from video provided by the Moscow City Court, Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's space agency, right, stands in court prior to a hearing in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (Moscow City Court via AP, File)

FILE - In this photo taken from video provided by the Moscow City Court, Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's space agency, right, stands in court prior to a hearing in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (Moscow City Court via AP, File)

FILE - Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's space agency, stands in a defendant’s cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on July 16, 2020. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's space agency, stands in a defendant’s cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on July 16, 2020. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven who lives in the city of Vyazma in western Russia and was arrested in 2015 on treason charges and later released, arrives at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Friday, March 13, 2015. Davydova was arrested after she contacted Ukraine's Embassy in Moscow in 2014, saying she thought Russian troops from a nearby base were heading to eastern Ukraine, where a separatist insurgency was unfolding. Russia at the time denied its troops involvement in eastern Ukraine, and the charges against Davydova were eventually dropped. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven who lives in the city of Vyazma in western Russia and was arrested in 2015 on treason charges and later released, arrives at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Friday, March 13, 2015. Davydova was arrested after she contacted Ukraine's Embassy in Moscow in 2014, saying she thought Russian troops from a nearby base were heading to eastern Ukraine, where a separatist insurgency was unfolding. Russia at the time denied its troops involvement in eastern Ukraine, and the charges against Davydova were eventually dropped. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with the leadership of military-industrial complex enterprises in Tula, Russia, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. Treason cases were rare in Russia 30 years ago, with only a handful brought annually. In the last decade and especially since the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine, however, the number has soared, along with espionage prosecutions. Putin in 2022 urged security services to "harshly suppress the actions of foreign intelligence services (and) promptly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs." (Russian Presidential Press Office, Sputnik Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with the leadership of military-industrial complex enterprises in Tula, Russia, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. Treason cases were rare in Russia 30 years ago, with only a handful brought annually. In the last decade and especially since the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine, however, the number has soared, along with espionage prosecutions. Putin in 2022 urged security services to "harshly suppress the actions of foreign intelligence services (and) promptly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs." (Russian Presidential Press Office, Sputnik Pool Photo via AP, File)

Recommended Articles