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Giuliani associate Lev Parnas faces new fraud charges

“We couldn't say it better ourselves – the behavior alleged today is indeed fraudulent – guaranteed,” FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney said.
Image: Lev Parnas arrives at federal court for an arraignment hearing in New York on Oct. 23, 2019.
Lev Parnas arrives at federal court for an arraignment hearing in New York on Oct. 23, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

Federal prosecutors have brought new charges against Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, accusing him of duping investors in a company called Fraud Guarantee.

A superseding indictment unsealed Thursday says that Parnas and a second man, David Correia, convinced investors to hand over more than $2 million between 2012 and 2019 for a new venture they said would provide fraud protection services.

The two men instead distributed the money to their personal accounts, spending $30,000 on luxury car leases and an unspecified amount on their rents and other personal expenses, according to the indictment brought by New York prosecutors.

“We couldn't say it better ourselves – the behavior alleged today is indeed fraudulent – guaranteed,” FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney said in a statement.

The new indictment comes 11 months after Parnas was charged with funneling foreign money to U.S. political candidates and campaigns.

Parnas and a second man, Igor Fruman, were carrying one-way tickets to Vienna when they were arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Oct. 9.

An indictment unsealed the next day accused the pair of making illegal straw donations, including $325,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee. Federal prosecutors accused the two men and a third, Andrey Kukushin, of participating in a scheme that involved making political donations funded by an unidentified foreign national who was nervous about "his Russian roots and current political paranoia about it,” according to the indictment.

The purpose of those donations, which were allegedly made in 2018, was to help gain access to recreational marijuana licenses so that they could form a marijuana business in Nevada, the indictment said. The venture never came to fruition, according to prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors say the two also engaged in a scheme to force the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Parnas, Fruman and Kukushin have pleaded not guilty. Correia was also charged in the case and pleaded not guilty.

The superseding indictment charged Parnas and Correia with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. It also included new allegations that Parnas, Fruman and Kukushin spent money in Florida elections and supported candidates in that state as well as others. The candidates were not identified.

Parnas's lawyer, Joseph Bondy, said the new charges came as no surprise.

“Lev Parnas has been on strict home confinement for nearly one year, waiting for this superseding indictment, which contains no surprises," Bondy said. "We are pleased that the matter can now move forward, for both Mr. Parnas and the public interest."

Fruman's lawyer, Todd Blanche, declined to comment. Lawyers for Correia and Kukushin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The removal of the former ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, in May was among the events House Democrats focused on in the Trump impeachment proceedings. Democrats accused Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden, his political rival, and Biden's son.

Giuliani has acknowledged that Parnas and Fruman assisted in his effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

Yovanovich testified at the impeachment hearing last November. The career diplomat, who served both Republican and Democratic presidents, said she was the subject of a smear campaign based on accounts from individuals with “questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow this past January, Parnas alleged that Trump was aware of the campaign to pressure the Ukrainian president to produce damaging information about Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” Parnas said.

The White House has denied the allegations and insisted the president “did nothing wrong.”