Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent

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Indicted former top FBI official Charles McGonigal is a partner in an Albanian firm along with another disgraced former FBI agent, records obtained by TPM show.

An Albanian corporate filing ties McGonigal to Mark Rossini, a flamboyant figure who left the FBI amid scandalous 2008 charges and who currently faces separate bribery-related charges in an August 2022 federal indictment in Puerto Rico.

The previously unreported business connection links McGonigal to another former agent with a similar profile: a high-flier at the bureau with experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and one who appears to have engaged in business with an eyebrow-raising array of foreign clients after leaving federal law enforcement. 

The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation — remains unclear. Why and how McGonigal apparently got involved with the firm, and how he may have met Rossini, are also unknown. 

Albanian journalists have published a series of articles since September 2022 highlighting McGonigal’s presence at the company, which they tie to the country’s oil industry.

Prosecutors accused McGonigal this week in separate federal indictments in D.C. and Manhattan of concealing cash he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee totaling $225,000, and of evading sanctions for work he performed for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a paymaster of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

But the Albanian corporate document connects McGonigal to the murky world that led Rossini to not just one, but two run-ins with federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini in August 2022 over his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving the former governor of Puerto Rico. That came 14 years after Rossini’s first scandal, which involved actress Linda Fiorentino and notorious Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, and quickly became tabloid fodder.

“It just violates the basic precepts of why you sign up to take these kinds of jobs, or your focus on the mission and serving the U.S. government and the American public,” Javed Ali, a retired FBI senior analyst and former senior counterterrorism director at the National Security Council, told TPM of the allegations. “These are the kind of things that, at a really idealistic level, should be motivating you to do the work. … But what we’re seeing is one of the worst case examples of someone abusing their position and trying to leverage it for a different purpose.” 

Ray Batvinis, a former supervisory agent for the FBI and an ex-counterintelligence course instructor at the FBI academy, said that the bureau would now likely be investigating the extent of the damage that McGonigal had done. 

“The FBI would be very concerned about what he gave up,” he told TPM. “He had access —  he knows a little bit of everything that the FBI is doing nationwide, but he also knows a great deal of information about what other intelligence agencies are doing.”

TPM obtained the corporate record from Albania’s corporate registry, and then paid a translator to translate the document into English.

TPM was unable to verify what the purpose of Lawoffice & Investigation was, beyond the description that it offered for itself in corporate records: that it’s a law office which also conducts investigations.

McGonigal’s link to the Albanian company surfaces a cast of characters who appear to be connected to the series of events that purportedly led to his indictments. 

The corporate filing for Lawoffice & Investigation shows four partners:  McGonigal, Rossini, Agron Neza, and Shefqet Dizari.

Social media posts show Rossini in a 2014 photograph with Neza, years before the point when federal prosecutors allege that McGonigal became involved. Rossini also checked in on Facebook in Tirana, Albania’s capital, in February 2019. 

Throughout 2019, Rossini became outspoken about internal political issues in Albania, criticizing political parties opposed to the country’s prime minister as pro-Russian. 

Rossini, Neza, and Dizdari are not named and have not been accused of wrongdoing in the two McGonigal indictments. Rossini and his attorneys did not return multiple requests for comment from TPM. Neza and Dizdari also did not return requests for comment.  

The corporate records are attached at the bottom of this article.

Flashback to Hollywood

The story of Rossini’s downfall from the FBI begins in the late 2000s. 

A star FBI agent who helped track Al-Qaeda before 9/11, Rossini had spent the years after playing a major role in trying to refit the agency to handle counterterrorism. 

Rossini, who was on detail to the CIA’s counterterrorism center at the time of the attacks, was no stranger to sensitive assignments. Then in 2006, amid an acrimonious divorce, Rossini began to date a Hollywood actress: Men in Black star Linda Fiorentino. 

“He was like a moth to a flame,” Jeff Stein, editor-in-chief of Spytalk and a longtime friend of Rossini’s, told TPM of the relationship. 

Fiorentino was friends with an LA fixer named Anthony Pellicano, who the New York Post dubbed “Hollywood Hitman” for his uncanny abilities as a private eye.

It all came crashing down for Pellicano in 2006, when federal prosecutors hit him with an 110-count indictment for illegally accessing police records from the LAPD and Beverly Hills Police Department, and for allegedly tapping Sylvester Stallone’s phone.

Things got weirder.

All of a sudden, Pellicano’s attorneys produced internal FBI records to accuse prosecutors of failing to turn over evidence to the defense. At first, it was unclear how they obtained those records.

But the trail led back to Rossini. It turned out that Rossini had passed FBI records to Fiorentino, who in turn gave them to Pellicano’s defense. 

“When the document that he gave her was introduced at Pellicano’s trial, DOJ was like, ‘what the fuck?’” Stein, Rossini’s friend and the Spytalk writer, recalled. “But you can’t go in and out of these files without hitting a mousetrap, so the idea he thought he could get away with it was pretty stupid. But love is blind, as they say.”

The Pellicano case brought Rossini down, forcing him to leave the FBI amid charges of illegally accessing bureau computers. Rossini was ultimately sentenced to one year probation, but that was the end of his 17-year career in federal law enforcement. 

Pellicano was ultimately found guilty at trial on more than 70 charges including racketeering, wiretapping, and wire fraud. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, before being released in 2019. 

Stein told TPM that, after the scandal, Rossini needed money to keep funding his lavish lifestyle.

“He likes to have a nice, flashy lifestyle, and that costs money,” Stein said. “So he was prey to getting involved with people he shouldn’t be involved with, because he needed the money.”

To Puerto Rico

Flash forward to August 2022.

Federal prosecutors charged Rossini with conspiracy, federal programs bribery, and honest services fraud over his alleged involvement in a graft scheme involving Puerto Rico’s governor. 

Per the allegations, the leadership of a bank that Rossini was consulting for allegedly promised to fund the Puerto Rico governor’s 2020 re-election campaign in exchange for her allowing the bank’s leadership to name the head of the island’s bank inspection commission, which was reviewing the lender.

Rossini has pleaded not guilty. 

Stein described it as a “sad story.” 

“He had to make a living, right? And his star had been badly tarnished by what happened at FBI,” he told TPM. “Fortune 500 companies are not gonna hire him.”

McGonigal Indicted

So, how did Rossini end up a partner in an Albanian company? And how did McGonigal go from being a senior FBI agent to a partner in the same firm as Rossini?

The two indictments outline part of what prosecutors believe to be McGonigal’s journey.

In August 2017, McGonigal allegedly asked a former Albanian intelligence employee referred to as “Person A” for money.

The description offered in the indictment suggests that the person is Neza, one of the co-partners in the firm with Rossini. In September 2022, Business Insider published a subpoena issued in the McGonigal investigation which named Neza. Neza was quoted this week in Albanian media as admitting to giving the money to McGonigal, but denying any wrongdoing associated with it. 

Batvinis, the former FBI counterintelligence official, told TPM that many similar cases he investigated ended up being motivated by “simple greed.” 

“Something triggered him to accept this or seek out the Albanians to get cash or get money,” he said of McGonigal. “You’re not gonna find anything exotic here at all — maybe it’s as boring as a midlife crisis.”

McGonigal purportedly traveled to Albania with Neza in September 2017, where he met with Albania’s prime minister and, per the FBI, urged the Albanian government to “be careful about awarding oil field drilling licenses in Albania to Russian front companies.”

“Person A and Person B both had a financial interest in the Government of Albania’s decisions about awards of oil field drilling licenses,” the indictment reads.

Lawoffice & Investigation, the Albanian firm in which McGonigal appears as a partner with Neza and Rossini, also lists an Albanian attorney named Shefqet Dizdari as a partner.

Dizdari did not return TPM’s requests for comment. A Switzerland-based firm — Terraoil Swiss — that describes itself as an “onshore Albanian oil producer” says on its website that Dizdari controls one-third of its shares.

The exact nature of the scheme that McGonigal was allegedly involved in remains unclear from the indictment. Lawoffice & Investigation was “suspended” in November 2019, per the corporate records.

Prosecutors said that McGonigal hid the extent of his work with the Albanians until after his September 2018 retirement from the bureau. Before then, the person matching Neza’s description allegedly gave McGonigal $225,000 in cash. The indictment leaves it unclear whether it was a payment, or if McGonigal was expected to return the money.

McGonigal is also alleged to have opened an FBI investigation into a lobbyist who had been hired by a political party other than that of Albania’s prime minister. The lobbyist, according to prosecutors, is an American citizen.

When Rossini became involved in the firm is also unclear. In a December 2014 Facebook post, Rossini appeared in a photo with Neza. 

In recent years, Rossini has also begun to speak out about Albania. 

Specifically, Rossini has taken positions about the country’s internal politics, accusing opponents of the country’s prime minister of being connected to the Russian government. He spoke out frequently against the Albanian opposition party after his February 2019 visit to the country. 

It’s not clear if it was related to his work with the Lawoffice & Investigation. 

View the corporate records here, in Albanian and translated into English:

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Notable Replies

  1. “He likes to have a nice, flashy lifestyle, and that costs money,” Stein said. “So he was prey to getting involved with people he shouldn’t be involved with, because he needed the money.”

    Maybe he should have reevaluated his lifestyle and chosen a more honest path?

    Seriously, I can imagine a bank robber making the same complaint.

  2. Now he can be a flash in the pan.

    Also:
    But wait! There’s more!

  3. The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation

    This alone makes me question the state of the entire FBI. These former FBI guys associate themselves with a business in Albania called “Lawoffice & Investigation” and didn’t think it would sound shady AF? What does that say about how they view their law enforcement colleagues?

  4. Avatar for mymy mymy says:

    The very definition of scumbags.

  5. Well, yes, but although the fit is not perfect it seems of a piece with the larger ‘revolving door’ problem in government; i.e., what kind of work you will do after, the degree to which that may be conflict w/ what you did before, and whether that conflict leads you to conduct yourself with less integrity both before and after.

    ETA: the ‘soft corruption’ of those looking for favor during or after leaving government in relation to high-ranking FBI agents like McGonigal finds some illumination in this recent thread reflecting on the issue vis-a-vis Trump/Russia;

    In April 2016, I broke the story of Trump and Putin, using Russian open sources. Afterwards, I heard vague intimations that something was awry in the FBI in New York, specifically counter-intelligence and cyber. We now have a suggestion as to why. 0/20

    — Timothy Snyder (@TimothyDSnyder) January 25, 2023

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

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