NEW YORK – A New York jury indicted Lev Parnas, a former aide of Rudy Giuliani, on Friday of making illegal campaign contributions to influence American politicians and advance his business interests.
The verdict was returned in Manhattan federal court, where Parnas was put on trial for more than two weeks after prosecutors accused him of using other people’s money as a powerful political pimp and some of the nation’s star Republican political figures. was accused of having sex with.
Part of the case alleges that Parnas and an aide made illegal donations through a corporate entity to Republican political committees in 2018, including a $325,000 donation to America First Action, a super PAC that supports former President Donald Trump. was also involved.
Another part said he used the assets of a Russian financier, Andrey Muraviev, to donate to American politicians, in support of an effort to start a legal, recreational marijuana business.
Parnas was convicted on all counts.
The 49-year-old Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman, insisted through his lawyer that he never used Russian money for political donations.
A co-defendant in the case, 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.
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 addition to a $325,000 donation to America First Action made through an energy company, prosecutors said Parnas and Fruman donated to U.S. Representative Pete Sessions of 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 be shown to jurors during the closing debate, and a video of Giuliani with Parnas was one of the exhibitions that jurors could watch. during the deliberations.
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.
Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondi called the allegations against his client “absurd.”
He insisted in his closing argument that Muraviev’s money went to support expanding legal marijuana businesses.
Kukushkin’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, sought to portray his client as an unintentional fraudster in the scheme, who was mocked behind his back by other participants posing as mentally handicapped.
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 has insisted that he knew nothing about possible illegal campaign contributions by Parnas or Fruman. The former mayor says everything he did in Ukraine was done on Trump’s behalf and there is no reason why he would have had to register as a foreign agent.