2 Businessmen Linked To Giuliani Plead Not Guilty In Campaign Finance Scheme
Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET
Two businessmen who allegedly conspired with associates of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to illegally funnel foreign money into Republican campaigns pleaded not guilty Thursday in a federal court in New York.
David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin are alleged to have worked with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to make illegal campaign contributions with money from foreign donors.
Correia, 44, a Florida resident, surrendered at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport after returning from the Middle East. He appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday and was released on $250,000 bond.
Correia's arrest comes a week after Fruman and Parnas, who allegedly helped Giuliani in his efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine, were arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington as they tried to board a plane to Frankfurt, Germany, on one-way tickets.
Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born California businessman, was arrested last week in San Francisco. Parnas was also born in Ukraine and Fruman in Belarus.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Giuliani is a focus of the investigation.
In the grand jury indictment issued last week by Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Parnas and Fruman, the two associates of Giuliani, are accused of setting up a shell company, Global Energy Producers LLC, to hide the foreign sourcing of a $325,000 donation to America First Action, a pro-Trump superPAC. The alleged illegal transfer appears to have first been noticed last year by the nonprofit watchdog Campaign Legal Center.
The indictment alleges the men "conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with candidates, campaigns, and the candidates' governments."
Prosecutors say Correia, Parnas, Fruman and Kukushkin also made illegal contributions to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states to get support for a new recreational marijuana business.
Earlier this week, a grand jury issued a subpoena for former Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, who is thought to be the "congressman-1" listed in the indictment. According to the indictment, Fruman and Parnas met with "congressman-1" during the 2018 campaign and pledged to raise $20,000 for him, possibly in exchange for "assistance" in removing then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
A spokesman for Sessions has said the former congressman is cooperating with the investigation.
Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post in May ahead of schedule, testified last week to House impeachment investigators as part of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry of the president.
She reportedly told lawmakers that her departure came after Giuliani's repeated criticisms of her. Giuliani has said, without evidence, that Yovanovitch as ambassador bad-mouthed Trump and sought to protect the Bidens, whom Trump and Giuliani, again without evidence, have accused of corruption over Hunter's seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, has said that he is unaware of any illegal campaign contributions by Parnas and Fruman and that he has not reviewed the evidence presented in their case.
In an undated photograph posted last July on the Facebook page of Ukraine's chief rabbi, two men who appear to be Correia and Fruman pose flanking Trump at an America First Action event, all three smiling and giving the thumbs up.
Parnas and Correia are business partners in a firm called Fraud Guarantee, which advertises itself as helping investors "reduce the risk of fraud as well as [to] mitigate the damage caused by fraudulent acts," according to its website. Parnas and Correia are listed as co-founders of the firm.
A brief biography on Fraud Guarantee's website says Correia played professional golf for more than six years, worked in the commercial mortgage and lending industry and has "owned, operated and successfully sold nationally acclaimed restaurants" after which he "became intimately engaged in the Philadelphia residential real estate market as an investor."
The Miami Herald, citing Florida corporate records, says Correia was listed as the secretary of a company called Parnas Holdings in 2012.
In an interview with the Herald, Dianne and Michael Pues, a New Jersey couple who say they are owed $500,000 after they invested in a failed movie venture by Parnas, allege that Correia once called them and issued a veiled threat on behalf of his partner.
"He said we no longer knew who we were dealing with and that the Ukrainians had ties all the way up to the State Department and the White House and they were partners with Rudy Giuliani," Dianne Pues said.
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