November 27, 2021

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Giuliani associate convicted on campaign finance charges – POLITICO

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A co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, 48, was also convicted Friday on the three campaign-finance-related felony charges he faced.

Prosecutors asked U.S. District Court Judge Paul Oetken to immediately jail Parnas and Kukushkin as they await sentencing. However, the judge declined. He said that as the case became drawn out for more than two years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they’d abided by the court’s orders and shown up for the trial.

“I do ultimately find that the defendants have sufficiently established that they’re not a risk of flight,” said Oetken, an appointee of former President Barack Obama. “They have complied with the terms of their pretrial release.”

The case garnered intense attention due to Parnas’ close relationship with Giuliani. The men worked together on efforts to remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and to get Ukrainian officials to launch an investigation that Trump believed would be politically damaging to now-President Joe Biden. The initial indictment in the case said the donation scheme was related to the political endeavor in Ukraine, but prosecutors dropped that allegation when revising the charges in the case. It was not mentioned in front of the jury.

Giuliani was not charged in the case, but jurors did see numerous photos and videos of him traveling with Parnas while campaigning for Republican political candidates. Some photos also showed the pair on the golf course. Giuliani also brought Parnas as his guest to former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral in Washington in 2018.

Giuliani appears to be the focus of a related investigation into potential violations of U.S. laws related to lobbying for foreign governments or officials. His home and office were raided by the FBI in May as part of that probe. That inquiry is being handled by the same prosecutors who conducted this month’s trial and is also being overseen by Oetken. That investigation’s status is unclear, but as of last month a special master appointed by Oetken was still reviewing materials seized from Giuliani earlier in the year.

Oetken set Kukushkin’s sentencing for Feb. 16. Parnas’ sentencing was deferred pending a decision about how to proceed with the remaining fraud charge that the judge ordered tried separately. That count relates to his work for an anti-fraud venture called “Fraud Guarantee.” Giuliani has acknowledged he received a $500,000 fee for consulting work related to the firm, but has said he’s unaware of the fraud alleged in the indictment.

Two other men, Igor Fruman and David Correia, previously pleaded guilty in the case. Correia was sentenced to a year in prison. Fruman is awaiting sentencing in January.

The acting U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Damian Williams, welcomed Friday’s verdicts.

“A unanimous federal jury has found that Lev Parnas and Andrey Kukushkin conspired to manipulate the United States political system for their own financial gain,” Williams said in a statement. “In order to gain influence with American politicians and candidates, they illegally funneled foreign money into the 2018 midterm elections with an eye toward making huge profits in the cannabis business. Campaign finance laws are designed to protect the integrity of our free and fair elections – unencumbered by foreign interests or influence – and safeguarding those laws is essential to preserving the freedoms that Americans hold sacred.”

Defense attorneys for Parnas and Kukushkin said they planned to pursue motions with the court arguing that the prosecution’s evidence in the case was lacking and the verdicts should be thrown out.

Parnas could receive up to 45 years in prison and Kukushkin 15 years on the charges that were the subject of the just-concluded trial. However, defendants are typically sentenced in accordance with federal guidelines that usually call for terms far short of the maximum, especially when defendants have little or no prior criminal record.

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