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Giuliani-linked Parnas pleads guilty to Fraud Guarantee scheme

Lev Parnas, a Ukraine-born businessman who aided Rudy Giuliani in Parnas’ home country, pleaded guilty on Friday to charges related to the aptly named startup ‘Fraud Guarantee.’

MANHATTAN (CN) — Giuliani crony Lev Parnas, already convicted of campaign finance crimes, pleaded guilty on Friday morning to an additional count of wire fraud conspiracy.

Parnas, who was involved in Rudy Giuliani’s unsuccessful efforts to get Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son during Biden’s campaign for president, already faces up to 45 years in prison after he was convicted last fall on separate charges for his participation in a scheme that involved funneling illegal political donations in U.S. elections that were funded by a wealthy Russian businessman.

During a 22-minute remote video conference on Friday, Parnas, 50, pleaded guilty to an additional count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a separate scheme from a superseding criminal indictment that charged him and Florida businessman David Correia with defrauding investors in a would-be company named Fraud Guarantee.

Correia pleaded guilty in October 2020 for his role in the Fraud Guarantee scheme, in which prosecutors alleged Parnas and Correia duped at least seven investors out of $2 million by misleading them about how much they had contributed to the company and how much money the company had raised overall.

Correia established the business Fraud Guarantee with the Ukraine-born Parnas, with whom he was first indicted by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in late 2019.

The company is the same one Parnas used to hire Giuliani, then the personal attorney to President Donald Trump, in a relationship that has drawn scrutiny from federal prosecutors. 

“Between approximately 2012 and 2019, I agreed with another person to give false information to individuals regarding the financials to a start-up project named Fraud Guarantee,” Parnas said during a brief 30-second allocution on Friday. “I used wires such as telephone and wire transfers in connection with my conduct, which I knew at the time was wrong, and I’m extremely sorry for my actions, your honor.”

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken observed during Friday’s remote hearing, “there’s no plea agreement of any sort here.”

Sentencing on Parnas’ guilty plea will take place in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, June 29.

Correia, the first co-defendant to plead out in the case, was sentenced to a year and  day in prison

The conspiracy charge carries no mandatory minimum, the Obama-appointed judge also noted on Friday.

Parnas has not been sentenced yet for his conviction on all counts in the straw donor election fraud scheme last year.

At trial last October, prosecutors accused Parnas, and Andrey Kukushkin, 48, of funneling $1 million from a Russian businessman, Andrey Muraviev, in two $500,000 payments that became political contributions as part of an effort to expand his legal marijuana businesses in the United States.

Prosecutors called Muraviev a “Russian tycoon” and said Parnas referred to Muraviev as “Big Andrey” as he “made connections with movers and shakers in the political world.”

Four days after Parnas filed a letter seeking to a change-of-plea hearing, Manhattan prosecutors unsealed a superseding indictment that added Muraviev as a co-defendant in the illegal campaign contributions scheme.

Conspiracy and illegal campaign contribution charges that were lodged against Muraviev in September 2020 in Manhattan federal court were unsealed by prosecutors who told a judge that the businessman was not in custody and was believed to be in Russia.

Just $100,000 of “Big Andrey’s” foreign money ultimately made its way into U.S. elections in violation of campaign finance laws, prosecutors said at trial last October.

Kukushkin was sentenced earlier this month to a year and a day in prison.

Igor Fruman, a fourth man charged in the original indictment, pleaded guilty shortly before the case went to trial last year to a single count of solicitation of a contribution by foreign national.

He faced a maximum punishment of up to five years in prison, with a guidelines maximum at 46 months incarceration, but was to a year and a day in prison for his role in the campaign contributions scheme.

Kukushkin, Fruman, and Correia’s sentences of 12 months and one day in prison make each of the convicted defendants eligible for the good-time credit that could potentially shave off 54 days for a sentence actually under one year.

Giuliani remains under criminal investigation as authorities decide whether his interactions with Ukraine officials required him to register as a foreign agent, but he wasn’t alleged to have been involved in illegal campaign contributions and wasn’t part of Parnas’ trial in Manhattan last October.

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