The same FBI official accused of illegally working for a Russian oligarch also faces charges of concealing a $225,000 payment while he was working for the bureau, court papers say.
Per a Jan. 18 indictment, a D.C. federal grand jury charged Charles McGonigal, a former special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the FBI’s New York City field office, with nine counts relating to a scheme in which he allegedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from a former foreign intelligence official.
The indictment does not specify whether McGonigal did anything specifically in exchange for the money — he faces charges of concealment, false statements, and falsifying official records.
But the charging documents lay out a story in which McGonigal appears to have used the powers that came with his position — including to open criminal investigations — in a way that may have benefitted those paying him.
McGonigal was charged separately on Monday in Manhattan federal court with a scheme to violate U.S. sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch. That scheme allegedly took place after McGonigal left his position at the FBI in 2018, and purportedly involved McGonigal trying to evade sanctions in order to work for Deripaska.
But if that’s shocking albeit vanilla post-retirement self-dealing, the allegations about what McGonigal did while high up in the apparatus of federal law enforcement are extremely spicy.
In August 2017, prosecutors said in the indictment, McGonigal met with an unnamed “Person A” and asked for money. At that point, McGonigal was still working for the FBI — he did not retire from the FBI until summer 2018.
Prosecutors say that “Person A” is a former employee of an “Albanian Intelligence Agency.”
The next month, McGonigal allegedly traveled to Albania with “Person A.” There, he purportedly met with the country’s Prime Minister and raised topics relating to the country’s oil business at the request of “Person A.” Prosecutors say that neither McGonigal nor the FBI paid for his lodgings in the country.
While on the trip, the indictment reads, McGonigal also traveled to Kosovo. He gave both a Kosovar politician and Albania’s prime minister “FBI paraphernalia” as gifts, prosecutors say.
After returning to the U.S., McGonigal didn’t disclose key details about the trip to the FBI, including who he traveled with, who he met with, and his trip to Kosovo.
McGonigal’s Albanian connections allegedly did not end there.
“Person A” allegedly gave McGonigal $80,000 in cash in October 2017 “in a parked car” outside a New York City restaurant. The FBI official purportedly received two more lump sums from the person at his New Jersey home, of $65,000 and $80,000.
He didn’t disclose these cash receipts, either, the government alleges.
After more travel in November 2017 to Austria and Albania, McGonigal allegedly began to discuss with a DOJ contact a “potential new criminal investigation” into an American lobbyist. The lobbyist, the indictment says, had recently registered to work for a political party other than that to which Albania’s prime minister belongs.
Throughout all this, McGonigal continued to stay in contact with Albania’s prime minister, prosecutors say. Prosecutors say that McGonigal continued to forward information about the “U.S. citizen lobbyist” to other FBI agents, and the bureau formally opened an investigation into the unnamed person in February 2018 “at defendant McGonigal’s request and upon his guidance.”
“Person A,” who allegedly gave McGonigal the cash payments and who accompanied him on his travel to Europe, was used as a confidential human source in the investigation, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors do not formally accuse McGonigal of bribery, or of opening the investigation in response to the money that he allegedly received from “Person A.” The relationship between “Person A” and Albania’s prime minister is left unclear in the indictment; what emerges is a picture of McGonigal, as an FBI official, receiving money from someone with ties to the Albanian government and then opening a criminal investigation into an American citizen lobbying for a political party that was not part of that government.
It’s a stunning picture, raising serious questions about how the probe was opened, and casting doubt on other decisions that McGonigal was in a position to be making while at the FBI. It’s extremely rare for law enforcement officials of his rank to face charges of this kind.
After departing the FBI in September 2018, McGonigal, Manhattan federal prosecutors say, signed on with Deripaska, the Russian oligarch who formerly operated as paymaster to Paul Manafort.
In that role, McGonigal allegedly agreed to investigate an oligarch rival of Deripaska’s in exchange for payment. A former New York court interpreter was also charged with McGonigal in that scheme.
Business Insider broke the story of the FBI’s investigation into one of its own back in September 2022. ABC reported that McGonigal was arrested at JFK airport on Saturday after returning from a trip to Sri Lanka.
Here is the D.C. indictment:
Here is the Southern District of New York indictment: