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Florida Businessman Is First in Giuliani-Linked Scheme to Plead Guilty

A South Florida business partner of Rudy Giuliani’s indicted Ukrainian associate pleaded guilty Thursday to counts of wire fraud conspiracy and making false statements in a federal affidavit.

MANHATTAN (CN) — A South Florida business partner of Rudy Giuliani’s indicted Ukrainian associate pleaded guilty Thursday to counts of wire fraud conspiracy and making false statements in a federal affidavit.  

Pursuant to plea agreement with federal prosecutors, David Correia pleaded guilty this morning to two counts of a seven-count superseding indictment in a case where he and Lev Parnas are charged with defrauding investors in a would-be company named “Fraud Guarantee.”

Correia appeared before U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken via videoconference, pleading guilty to one count of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud arising from the Fraud Guarantee scheme. 

“This is not a cooperation agreement,” the Obama-appointed judge noted at the end of the 45-minute hearing. 

Speaking on his plea to the second count, making false statements to FEC in October 2018, Correia read from a brief prepared statement.  

“I just wanted the FEC to end its investigation,” Correia said, waiving his right to appear in person due to the coronavirus. “I believed at the time it was unwarranted,” he added. “I knew this was wrong at the time I did it.” 

With regard to the wire fraud count, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind said between 2012 and 2019, Correia and Parnas solicited investments of $200,000 to $500,000 to Fraud Guarantee, a company that never became operational and never had any customers. 

Zolkind said the majority of investor funds were withdrawn as cash and used on personal expenses, mostly for Parnas and his family. 

Correia’s attorney Bill Harrington noted that “Mr. Correia got very little of that money” from the Fraud Guarantee scheme. 

Pursuant to the plea deal, Correia also agreed to make restitution to victims totaling $3,322,500, and to forfeit $43,650 representing proceeds traceable to the Fraud Guarantee scam.

The plea today makes the first conviction to arise from a 2019 indictment brought in the Southern District of New York over an alleged straw-donor scheme to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections through limited liability companies. Along with Parnas and Correia, the indictment brought charges against the Soviet-born Ukrainian entrepreneur Igor Fruman and Andrey Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born resident of California.

Judge Oetken set a sentencing date for Feb. 8, 2021. Sentencing guidelines prescribe a range of 33 to 41 months in prison. 

Correia had previously pleaded not guilty in the case, alongside Fruman, Kukushkin and Parnas, who are set to go to trial in February 2021. 

Prosecutors alleged in a superseding indictment that conspired to mislead potential investors to invest in Fraud Guarantee, the same company Parnas used to hire President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in a relationship that has drawn scrutiny from federal prosecutors.  

Giuliani has said he was promised half a million dollars to work with the company. 

Prosecutors alleged in their original indictment that Fruman, Parnas, Correia and Kukushkin had planned to form recreational marijuana businesses that would be funded by a foreign national and required gaining access to necessary retail marijuana licenses in particular states, including Nevada and New York. 

Correia’s counsel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the plea.

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