A Florida businessman who helped fund Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine was convicted on Friday of campaign finance offenses, including funneling a Russian entrepreneur’s money to US politicians.
Lev Parnas went on trial for more than two weeks as prosecutors accused him of using other people’s money as a powerful political pimp and cohabiting with some of the nation’s star Republicans.
Part of the case alleges that Parnas and an associate made illegal donations through a corporate entity in 2018 as they tried to start a new energy company, including a $325,000 donation to America First Action, Which was a super PAC supporting former President Donald Trump.
Another part said he used the assets of a Russian financier, Andrey Muraviev, to donate to Republicans in Nevada, Florida and other states, apparently in support of an effort to start a legal, recreational marijuana business.
After nearly five hours of jury discussion, 49-year-old Parnas was convicted in all six cases.
The Soviet-born businessman insisted through his lawyer that he never used Russian money for political donations. As he read the verdict, he closed his eyes for a while and shook his head.
“I never hide from anyone. I have always stood for speaking the truth,” said Parnas as he exited the courtroom. His lawyer, Joseph Bondi, promised an appeal, with Parnas saying it was “not the end of the story.”
“I am sad. But at this point in time, I just want to bring my wife and kids home,” he said.
A co-defendant, Ukraine-born investor Andrey Kukushkin, was convicted of being part of an attempt to use Muraviev’s money for political contributions. He also denied any wrongdoing. Kukushkin and his lawyer left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
The case had drawn interest because of the keen involvement of Parnas and a former co-defendant, Igor Fruman, in Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden’s son during Biden’s campaign for president.
Giuliani is under criminal investigation as authorities decide whether his interactions with Ukrainian authorities require him to register as a foreign agent, but does not accuse him of engaging in illegal campaign contributions. and was not part of the New York trial.
However, the case took a closer look at how Parnas entered Republican circles in 2018 with a pattern of campaigning big enough to hold meetings with party stars.
“In order to gain influence with American politicians and candidates, he illegally used foreign funds in the 2018 midterm elections to make huge profits in the cannabis business,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after the verdict. could.” “Campaign finance laws are designed to protect the integrity of our free and fair elections _ free from foreign interests or influence _ and protect those laws as necessary to preserve the freedoms that Americans hold sacred.”
In addition to a $325,000 donation to America First Action, prosecutors said Parnas and Fruman donated to Pete Sessions, the US Representative from Texas and other committees supporting House Republicans.
Little was mentioned of Giuliani and Trump during the trial, although a photo of Parnasse with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, was one of the first to show jurors during the closing debate.
DeSantis was among those who received campaign contributions that prosecutors said were traced to $1 million received from Muraviev, who has been involved in several US cannabis enterprises.
About $100,000 of Muraviev’s money went to campaign contributions, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen Scotton called a conspiracy to covertly bring “money and corruption into American politics” in violation of laws prohibiting foreign donations to American political candidates. .
“Voters would never know whose money was being put into our elections,” Scotton said.
Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxault, now a US Senate candidate, testified during trial that a blatant Parnas suggested he could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for him in 2018. He eventually came only with a check for $10,000, which Laxalt’s lawyers told him. reject.
Bondi, who represents Parnas, called the allegations against his client “absurd”.
He insisted in his closing argument that Muraviev’s money went to support expanding legal marijuana businesses. Muraviev was not charged in the case.
Kukushkin’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, sought to portray his client as an unwitting fraudster who was mocked behind his back by the other participants as mentally handicapped.
Following the verdict, prosecutors asked Parnas and Kukushkin to be imprisoned immediately, citing flight risks, but the judge allowed them to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing.
The charges against Parnas collectively have the potential to remain behind bars for decades, but any prison sentence would be measured in years rather than decades.
Fruman pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of soliciting contributions by a foreign national. He awaits punishment.
Another co-defendant, David Correa, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in prison for crimes including defrauding investors in an insurance company that paid Giuliani a $500,000 consulting fee.
Parnas awaits a second trial regarding that plan.
Giuliani barely noticed in the trial, although a video of him with Parnas was one of the exhibitions that the jury could see during the deliberations.
The former New York mayor has insisted he knows nothing about possible illegal campaign contributions and has said that everything he did in Ukraine was done on Trump’s behalf and there is no reason why he should be a Have to register as a foreigner…