Florida businessmen who helped Giuliani in Ukraine arrested on campaign finance charges
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two foreign-born donors who gave money to a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump, were arrested Wednesday night and face charges tied to campaign-finance violations, two law enforcement officials confirmed to NBC News.
The pair are expected to appear in federal court Thursday.
Fruman and Parnas worked with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, Giuliani has previously said, as part of his dealings in Ukraine that involved efforts to encourage the nation to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Parnas is Ukrainian, while Fruman is Belarusian, according to the indictment unsealed Thursday.
According to the indictment, filed in the Southern District of New York, the two men, along with fellow defendants David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, “conspired 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 candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.”
The indictment describes an elaborate scheme to conceal the real source of the political donations through the use of secret agreements, limited liability corporations and straw donors.
The defendants deceived “the candidates, campaigns, federal regulators, and the public by entering into secret agreements, laundering foreign money through bank accounts in the name of limited liability corporations, and through the use of straw donors … who purported to make legal campaign contributions in their own names, rather than in the name of the true source of the fund,” according to the document.
Two senior law enforcement officials told NBC News that Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. Wednesday. The two were slated to depart on an flight that would have taken them outside the U.S., the sources said. Their exact destination was not immediately known. Kukushkin was arrested in San Francisco Wednesday. The status of the fourth person charges in the scheme, Correia, is not immediately known.
The Trump campaign declined to comment to NBC News while John Dowd, an attorney for the two men, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News. Reached by NBC News, Giuliani said he could not yet comment.
Fruman and Parnas are charged with making $325,000 in illegal straw donations to a Trump super PAC, according to the indictment, as well as giving $15,000 to a second committee.
In May 2018, the two men gave $325,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC American First Action through an LLC, the group confirmed to NBC News.
“Accordingly, America First Action 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,” a PAC spokesman said. “We take our legal obligations seriously and scrupulously comply with the law and any suggestion otherwise is false.”
House committees involved in the recently launched impeachment inquiry sought documents and depositions from Parnas and Fruman. Parnas was requested to appear before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees Thursday, while Fruman was requested to appear Friday.
Dowd said earlier this week that the men would not comply with requests for documents or testimony.
This is a breaking news story, please check back for updates.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.