Short Leash Kept Taut for Ukrainian Associate of Giuliani

Igor Fruman, center, arrives for his Oct. 23, 2019, arraignment in New York. He and Lev Parnas are charged with conspiracy to make illegal contributions to political committees supporting President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Prosecutors say the pair wanted to use the donations to lobby U.S. politicians to oust the country’s ambassador to Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge refused Friday to drop home-detention and electronic-monitoring bail conditions for one of the two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani arrested last month while headed to Europe on one-way tickets.

Following 30 minutes of arguments in the Manhattan courthouse this morning, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken found that the one-way ticket along with overseas business, including some based in Kiev, Ukraine, offered sufficient basis to maintain the pretrial GPS monitoring and home-detention conditions assigned to Igor Fruman.

The Ukrainian-born Fruman was charged last month along with Belarus-born Lev Parnas with using straw donors to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections through limited liability companies. Authorities had tracked them to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, holding one-way tickets to Vienna. Upon transfer to New York last week, they pleaded not guilty, surrendered their passports and posted bail, agreeing to electronic monitoring and heavy travel restrictions limited to the Southern District of Florida and Southern District of New York.

Those restrictions sparked pushback, however, from Fruman’s attorney, Todd Blanche, of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

“Mr. Fruman is simply not a flight risk necessitating home detention and GPS monitoring,” Blanche wrote in a Wednesday letter, adding that his client’s $1 million bond is fully secured by his Florida residence and the potential co-signors have adequate savings and assets to cover any shortcoming in the collateral should Fruman flee.

“All three co-signers have significant moral suasion over Mr. Fruman, and Mr. Fruman’s brother and wife have significant assets that would cover any shortcoming from the eventual sale of property if Mr. Fruman were to flee,” the letter states.

In court Friday, Blanche argued that Fruman’s one-way plane ticket should not be seen as indicative of any crime.

“The one-way ticket was not because he was not coming back,” Fruman’s attorney said, insisting that the last-minute ticket was just cheaper one way, at $8,000, compared with round-trip tickets for $20,000.

Blanche also noted that Austria has an extradition treaty with United States, which would have made for a poor choice of destination for a defendant fleeing authorities.

Home detention and electronic monitoring is burdensome for Fruman, who is raising three children in Miami while going through a divorce, Blanche argued. “A million-dollar bond is more than enough,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos brought up timing of Fruman’s one-way ticket for Vienna, noting that Fruman and Parnas had been subpoenaed by Congress two days before were arrested and signaled that were not going to comply.

Roos noted that Fruman’s involvement, as president of the Ukrainian company, Ortrada Luxury Group, made him politically connected in the country where he and his family could “live a really nice life.”

In addition to the one-way ticket, Roos argued that Fruman’s frequent overseas travel, often with circuitous itineraries that obscure the ultimate final destination, and use of private aircraft bolstered the government’s case for home detention.

Judge Oetken was not persuaded Friday to adjust Fruman’s bail conditions, noting the weight of evidence and nature of crimes charged along with the one-way ticket and international business ties.

Blanche separately opined that federal prosecutors were digging too broadly into the financial backgrounds of Fruman’s brother and his wife, who along with his son, were planning to co-sign the bond.

Blanche said Fruman’s family members have provided personal bank statements and two years of tax returns, but representatives for the Southern District of New York also required additional financial information during an interview about businesses in the New York City area in which the couple has interests.

“This is unprecedented,” Blanche said in court Friday of the co-signers’ interviews. “It is a becoming a discovery process,” he added.

Judge Oetken responded that it is entirely appropriate to request additional information from a co-signer to evaluate potential involvement in the charged conduct.

The judge denied Blanche’s request to preclude the government’s requests for financial records of the potential co-signors and gave Blanche another week to work out Fruman’s cosigners.

Fruman, a U.S. citizen who lives in Florida, waived his appearance at the  Manhattan bail hearing.

Fruman and Parnas’ accused co-conspirators Andrey Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born resident of California, and David Correia, of South Florida, also pleaded not guilty two weeks ago.

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