Indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas can stay free on bail after prosecutors argue he hid money

Parnas was arrested in October along with Igor Fruman, another Giuliani associate, and pleaded not guilty to charges of funneling money from foreign entities to U.S. candidates in a scheme to buy political influence.
Image: Giuliani Associates Lev Parnas And Igor Fruman Back In Court For Campaign Finance Case
Lev Parnas departs federal court with his wife Svetlana Parnas on Dec. 2, 2019 in New York.Stephanie Keith / Getty Images file

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By Dartunorro Clark and Tom Winter

Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani facing charges of violating campaign finance laws, will be allowed to remain free on bail despite arguments from prosecutors on Tuesday that he concealed assets, including $1 million from a Russian oligarch with ties to President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Parnas was untruthful when he told Justice Department officials that he and his wife had about $450,000 in total assets and income. Instead, they said, Parnas had more than three times that amount — including a $1 million payment from a Russian bank account this past September — a month before his arrest.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken said Parnas can remain out on bail and did not believe he was being intentionally untruthful.

"The question before me really is if there's a set of conditions that can guarantee the appearance of the defendant," he said. "The government points to several factors and they are concerning. They focus on the financial statements and alleged misstatements made."

He added, "There's certainly lots of suspicious activity here... but I don't know if that's a clear and intentional misstatement.

Parnas, 47, had been seeking less restrictive terms of confinement and monitoring while he awaits trial.

Parnas was arrested in October along with Igor Fruman, another Giuliani associate, and pleaded not guilty to charges of funneling money from foreign entities to U.S. candidates in a scheme to buy political influence.

Both Parnas and Fruman are alleged to have started making illegal campaign contributions in March 2018. Parnas, who is Ukrainian, was originally released on a $1 million bond secured on $200,000 cash. He was eventually released to home confinement with electronic monitoring.

Parnas and Fruman were carrying one-way tickets to Vienna when they were arrested at Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C., authorities said. The foreign-born Florida men were charged with making numerous political donations, including $325,000 in illegal straw donations to a Trump super PAC and a $15,000 to a second committee to help them advance the interests of a Ukrainian government official and a Russian national seeking to break into the cannabis industry.

However, prosecutors on Tuesday argued he should be held in jail pending his trial because he concealed the $1 million payment from Justice Department officials that handle bail.

"We assumed that we were proceeding in good faith. Now we know that the representations made to us and pre-trial were totally false," federal prosecutor Rebekah Donaleski said. "Even now the Government isn't clear how much money he has," Donaleski said later in the hearing. "We still have serious questions as to how Mr. Parnas is getting his money."

An attorney for Parnas told NBC News on Monday that the $1 million dollars was wired from Russia to a bank account belonging to his wife, Svetlana Parnas, and was actually a loan that she took out and that prosecutors should have been aware of prior to agreeing to bail.

However, in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, prosecutors said the million dollars was sent by an attorney for Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch linked to Manafort.

"Much of his foreign travel this fall was paid by a Ukrainian Oligarch who is fighting extradition," Donaleski told the court on Tuesday, referring to Firtash. "Parnas could cut off his bracelet and go to the airport and it would be too late before we could do anything about it."

Firtash, who has also been linked to Russian organized crime, was indicted in 2014 for bribing Indian officials to get a lucrative mining deal to sell titanium to Boeing, according to federal prosecutors in Illinois. He was arrested in Vienna in March 2014, released on $174 million bail and has been contesting his extradition to the U.S. since.

"He has reported and unreported connections to the highest levels of the Ukraine government,” the prosecutor said Tuesday. "There are people who are in the Ukraine and abroad who do not want Mr. Parnas here in New York."

Joseph Bondy, Parnas' lawyer, said he has no current ties to Firtash and "has no interest in continuing the relationship."

"He has burned those bridges," Bondy said.

Parnas has court-authorized travel through several airports as proof of his ability to travel without being a flight risk.

"He's a proud citizen of the United States of America and he continues to be," Bondy said on Tuesday, adding the father of five won a visa lottery to immigrate to the U.S. from the Societ Union. "If he was trying to go anywhere, it would be to go to Washington D.C. and speak to Congress."

Bondy said last month that Parnas is willing to tell Congress that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., met with Ukraine's former top prosecutor about investigating the activities of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Officials have testified in the Ukraine impeachment hearings that Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, ran his own influence campaign in Ukraine on behalf of the president and usurped diplomatic channels to get the country to investigate the Bidens.