NEW YORK — Two businessmen who posed for photos with President Donald Trump and helped his lawyer Rudy Giuliani seek dirt on a political rival will be arraigned Wednesday on campaign finance charges.
Lev Parnas, 46, a U.S. citizen born in Ukraine, and Igor Fruman, 53, a U.S. citizen born in Belarus, are set for arraignment in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Paul Oetken.
The arraignment follows delays in posting security for their $1 million bonds, which will allow them to remain free while the court case against them continues.
A criminal indictment unsealed on Oct. 10 alleges that Parnas and Fruman schemed to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from foreign donors to U.S. government officials and political action committees.
The contributions, some disguised through so-called straw donors, were aimed at boosting the campaigns of Trump-supporting candidates and political action committees, advancing the interests of a Ukrainian government official and funding a planned cannabis retail business in the U.S., the indictment alleged.
Trump Impeachment inquiry: Key takeaways from Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor’s ‘explosive’ opening statement
USA TODAY reported last week that federal counterintelligence investigators have been looking into Giuliani’s business dealings with Parnas and Fruman since at least early 2019. Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor as well as a former New York City mayor, said he was unaware of any investigation.
The indictment of the two men drew the attention of presidential impeachment inquiries in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, which issued subpoenas to both men hours after their arrests this month.
Their business associates and co-defendants, David Correia, 44, and Andrey Kukushkin, 46, pleaded not guilty last week to charges involving political contributions related to a cannabis business, which never materialized. Correia is free on $250,000 bail. Kukushkin is subject to home detention and 24-hour GPS monitoring after posting security for a $1 million bond.
A Parnas-Fruman company, Global Energy Producers, was credited with giving $325,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee in May 2018. However, the indictment said financial records showed the money came via a circuitous route through a loan transaction linked to Fruman. The money never passed through a Global Energy Producers account, according to prosecutors.
The month the contribution was made, Parnas posted photos on Facebook of him and Fruman with President Trump in the White House and with Donald Trump Jr. in California.
Stressing that he has taken photos with many people, Trump said he did not know Parnas and Fruman. However, he also suggested that they might have been clients of Giuliani. Giuliani has referred to the men as his clients. However, he is not representing the men in the criminal case.
Giuliani, Trump’s longtime friend and his personal lawyer, is a pivotal figure in the impeachment inquiry examining whether the nation’s commander-in-chief improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s family in order to boost his own reelection bid.
Sifting for corruption evidence: Trump’s conspiracy theories thrive in Ukraine, where a young democracy battles corruption and distrust
Giuliani has acknowledged that Parnas and Fruman helped guide him as he urged Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business involvement with Burisma, a major Ukrainian natural gas company.
Giuliani has also acknowledged a similar effort to investigate Trump administration suspicions that Ukraine, not Russia, was involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s servers during the 2016 presidential election.
However, Giuliani has insisted that he carried out his efforts with U.S. State Department knowledge and approval.