WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, was arrested Wednesday (Oct 16) morning at a New York City airport, officials said.
Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment unsealed last week that also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to campaign finance regulators.
The other defendants were quickly arrested by the FBI, but Correia had been travelling in the Middle East, and returned to the US to surrender to authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Correia made a brief court appearance Wednesday, where a judge ordered him released on US$250,000 (S$342,000) bond. He and the other person charged in the case, Andrey Kukushkin, are due back in court on Thursday.
Parnas and Fruman were originally expected to appear in court Thursday as well, but their hearing has been pushed back to next week. Fruman was released on bond Wednesday, but Parnas remains in jail.
Parnas and Fruman, who had been helping Giuliani investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, were arrested a week ago at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, where they had one-way tickets on a flight out of the country, officials said.
Giuliani's business dealings with the men are part of the federal investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ken McCallion, a New York lawyer who represents clients in Ukraine, said Wednesday that FBI agents reached out to him early this year, asking whether he knew whether Giuliani was connected to Fruman and Parnas - an indication of just how long federal agents have been interested in the former New York mayor's interactions with the two Florida men.
A grand jury subpoena has been issued to former congressman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, who interacted with Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman. Parnas and Fruman are accused of violating campaign finance laws by making donations to Sessions' campaign that exceeded federal limits.
The indictment says Parnas met with the ex-congressman in 2018 seeking his "assistance in causing the US government to remove or recall the then-US Ambassador to Ukraine," the indictment alleges. . . Parnas' efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials." Giuliani and Sessions have denied wrongdoing. Parnas and Fruman have not formally entered pleas yet to the charges.
The arrests mark the first criminal charges to emerge from the US government's suddenly controversial relationship with Ukraine - a complex web of financial and political interactions linking diplomacy to alleged violations of campaign finance law.
The indictment does not allege any wrongdoing by the president or his campaign, but the charges of political donations made for the secret benefit of foreign interests adds to the growing legal and political pressure on Trump and his attorney as they try to fend off Democrats' impeachment efforts.
Correia is charged with conspiracy as part of an alleged scheme involving donations to Nevada politicians in the hopes of winning support for a marijuana business secretly backed by an unidentified Russian businessman. Kukushkin, from California, was arrested last week, according to authorities.
Correia is not charged in the part of the case involving Sessions, but he has significant ties to the companies under scrutiny. He has been identified as chief operating officer of a company called Fraud Guarantee that he co-founded with Parnas. Giuliani has said he was paid US$500,000 for work he did for Fraud Guarantee in 2018 and 2019.
Correia is also listed as an officer at Global Energy Partners. According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman disguised the source of a US$325,000 donation made in 2018 to America First, the main pro-Trump super PAC, by giving that money in the name of GEP. Federal prosecutors say the company was a front used to disguise the funds' true source and that the money came from "a private lending transaction between Fruman and third parties." Giuliani has also said Parnas and Fruman have been assisting Giuliani in his efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden and his son, as well as Giuliani's claim that Democrats conspired with Ukrainians in the 2016 US election.