Ex-Giuliani Buddy Lev Parnas Convicted in Illegal Foreign Influence Operation

·3 min read
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty

Lev Parnas, the disgraced Republican donor and former Rudy Giuliani pal, was found guilty by a New York jury Friday of making illegal campaign donations intended to influence politicians, the Associated Press reported.

He was convicted on five counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of filing a false report with the Federal Election Commission. He could face up to five years in prison for each of the campaign finance charges and 20 years in prison for the false FEC report.

Parnas, one of the many characters in Giuliani’s quest to tie Joe Biden to Ukraine, had been on trial for two weeks over the illicit operation, which was uncovered in months of reporting by The Daily Beast. The scheme included donations made to Trump-aligned political action committees on behalf of Russian donor Andrey Muraviev. The donations, made just before the 2018 election cycle, were part of an effort to launch a marijuana business.

“These men shoveled thousands and thousands of dollars of foreign money to U.S. politicians, laughing about how they were breaking the law along the way,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aline Flodr said during her opening statement. “That is what secret foreign money infiltrating an American election looks like.”

How The Beast Uncovered the Campaign Finance Scheme That Just Got Giuliani Cronies Indicted

The initial 2019 indictment also alleged Parnas tried to influence politicians to remove the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, though prosecutors elected not to pursue that charge.

Parnas was convicted alongside Andrey Kukushkin, who hails from Ukraine and also denied his role in the operation.

The Soviet-born magnate denied ever using the money on behalf of Muraviev, though prosecutors showed how he curried favor in Republican circles, including among Trump colleagues such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, to obtain influence.

One of the most prominent examples included a $325,000 contribution to the America First Action PAC, one of former President Trump’s premier fundraising committees. The 2018 donation, the subject of an FEC complaint, was shown to be made by Global Energy Producers, a scantily set-up company backed by Parnas and Igor Fruman that had only ever made a $50,000 donation to DeSantis, The Daily Beast first reported.

The “company” was later shown to be a straw donor for another Parnas-led company, according to wire transfer records, and was later pointed to by prosecutors as little more than a front to inject the two, along with business partner David Correia, into the Republican-led political realm.

Since his initial debut as a Trump crony, Parnas has repeatedly shifted allegiances. After his role alongside Fruman in helping Giuliani's efforts to uncover ties between then-Vice President Biden and Ukraine, Parnas disavowed the Trump empire entirely just as the former president went through his first impeachment because he felt they abandoned him during his initial arrest. “I felt like my family left me,” he told The Daily Beast last year.

Parnas also faces federal charges related to his role at his company “Fraud Guarantee,” including an allegation that he and Correia defrauded investors out of $2 million. While Correia was sentenced to a year in prison for the scheme after pleading guilty, Parnas faces a second trial.

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