David Correia, a business partner of former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, pleaded guilty on Thursday to defrauding investors of millions of dollars and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.
Correia, who was charged with five fraud-related charges, pleaded guilty to two of them in federal court in New York as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Judge Paul Oetken said there is no cooperation agreement.
Correia and Parnas were initially indicted in 2019 on campaign finance fraud charges — including the false statements to the FEC — then were hit with additional fraud charges in September.
The newer charges allege they duped investors into handing over more than $2 million between 2012 and 2019 for a venture they said would provide fraud protection services, called "Fraud Guarantee.” The two men instead distributed the money to their personal accounts, according to the indictment, spending $30,000 on luxury car leases and an unspecified amount on their rents and other personal expenses.
“We couldn't say it better ourselves — the behavior alleged today is indeed fraudulent — guaranteed,” FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney said in a statement last month.
“I did this because I wanted investors to believe this was a great project and I knew at the time that this was wrong,” Correia told the court Thursday. He said he was involved in the scheme with another person but did not specifically name Lev Parnas.
Prosecutors allege that with two others, Correia and Parnas attempted to influence the U.S. election through illegal campaign contributions. They were charged with conspiracy, making false statements to the FEC and falsification of records. According to prosecutors, they were engaged in an elaborate scheme to help an unnamed Ukrainian government official and a person described as having "Russian roots" gain access to U.S. politicians and government officials through campaign contributions in order to advance business and personal financial interests.
Correia's sentencing is scheduled for February 8.
Parnas, an American born in Ukraine, was a witness in the 2019 impeachment inquiry, in which Democrats accused President Donald Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Parnas was questioned over his involvement in the removal of former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and in efforts by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to dig up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. Giuliani has acknowledged that Parnas assisted him in those efforts.
Parnas has pleaded not guilty to all seven charges he faces, and is scheduled to go to trial on March 1.
In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in 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. The White House has denied the allegations and insisted the president “did nothing wrong.”
Parnas' lawyer declined to comment on Correia's plea.