Two associates of Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani who were tied to the Ukraine pressure campaign were arrested on Wednesday on campaign finance charges, a source familiar told TPM.
The pair — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — traveled to Kyiv in 2019 as Giuliani and Trump pressed the Ukrainian government to fabricate dirt on Joe Biden and the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. The duo have run the gamut in their work with Giuliani, most recently teaming up with the former NYC mayor to probe opportunities in Ukraine’s gas business but also reportedly aiding the Trump attorney in his pressure campaign on Kyiv — for which the President now faces impeachment.
The duo were arrested Wednesday night at Washington-Dulles International airport, while reportedly trying to flee the country. They had depositions before Congress scheduled for today and tomorrow.
Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York charged the pair – as well as David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin — on two counts of conspiracy, false statements to the FEC, and falsifying records.
Prosecutors accuse the four of conspiring “to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and State office so that the defendants could buy potential influence” with politicians and government.
The indictment accuses Parnas and Fruman of funneling $325,000 in foreign cash to pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action in a mysterious transaction that TPM wrote about last month.
The pair founded a company called Global Energy Partners, and marked it down as having made the contribution. But as TPM reported, and the indictment alleges, GEP did not make the contribution — rather, the money came from another firm.
Prosecutors allege that the money in fact came from a “private lending transaction” with unnamed third parties, and that the pair intentionally concealed the origin of the funds from the FEC. America First Action also recorded the $325,000 as having come from GEP, and told TPM at the time that it complied with all applicable laws and regulations. AFA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
That PAC also benefitted an unnamed “then-sitting U.S. Congressman” who received a commitment from Parnas and Fruman for $20,000.
At around that time, the indictment reads, “Parnas met with Congressman-1 and sought Congressman-1’s assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.”
Last year, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s removal, accusing her of being anti-Trump. America First Action reportedly spent more than $3 million to benefit Sessions during the 2018 election cycle.
Yovanovitch was fired in May 2019, after Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko began to publicly accuse her of corruption, and after Giuliani pushed for her removal.
In a statement, America First Action said that “In May 2018, America First Action received a $325,000 contribution and donor form from Global Energy Producers.”
After the FEC opened an investigation concerning the contribution, America First Action said, it “placed that contribution in a segregated bank account, it has not been used it for any purpose and the funds will remain in this segregated account until these matters are resolved. We take our legal obligations seriously and scrupulously comply with the law and any suggestion otherwise is false.”
The indictment also details a scheme to create a marijuana business in Nevada. Parnas and Fruman allegedly funneled money from a foreign official to a Nevada state candidate’s election campaign in order to help secure a license for marijuana retail.
For the marijuana licensing venture, the pair allegedly worked with David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin. Correia allegedly drafted a table contemplating between $1 and $2 million in political contributions to accomplish the scheme. The unnamed foreign national allegedly wired $1 million in furtherance of the effort late last year, but it all stumbled on one hitch: the deadline for registering marijuana licenses in Nevada was September 2018.
So, the indictment alleges, the defendants attempted to contribute to a Nevada State candidate who was running for an office in which the candidate would be empowered to “change the rules.”
Parnas and Fruman are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia on Thursday.
Read the indictment here: