Two men who aided efforts by President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son were arrested Wednesday evening on campaign finance charges.
Federal authorities arrested Florida businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both of whom have donated to several Republican campaigns and in May 2018 gave $325,000 to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC.
Parnas and Fruman have been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. They are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia later Thursday, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal reported.
Parnas, Furman and other defendants "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 by potential influence with the candidates, campaigns and the candidates' governments," a newly unsealed indictment reads.
"The defendants concealed the scheme from the candidates, campaigns, federal regulators and the public by entering into secret agreements, laundering foreign money through bank accounts in the name of limited liability corporations and through the use of straw donors, who purported to make legal campaign contributions in their own names rather than in the name of the true source of the funds," it continued.
The indictment also charges that Fruman and Parnas schemed to raise and donate money for a then-sitting U.S. congressman at the same time they were asking that lawmaker to get the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her job. Their efforts were "conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government official," prosecutors say.
Prosecutors allege Parnas and Fruman, who had little history of political involvement, began engaging in a foreign donor scheme in March 2018 in order "to advance their personal financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working." To advance their efforts, they "made a $325,000 contribution to an independent expenditure committee and a $15,000 to a second such committee."
The pair "falsely reported" that their contributions came from Global Energy Producers, a purported liquid natural gas company that Furman and Parnas had incorporated around the time the contributions were made, the indictment states.
The Campaign Legal Center, a transparency advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission in July 2018, calling on the commission to investigate whether Parnas and Furman had violated campaign finance laws by using a LLC to conceal the source of their donations.
The two men allegedly dined with the president himself in 2018 and met with his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., at a Beverly Hills, Calif., fundraiser later that month, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Fruman and Parnas reportedly introduced Giuliani to several current and former Ukrainian officials to discuss the dismissal of a prosecutor, who Trump has alleged had been pressured by Biden to end an investigation into the former vice president's son, Hunter, to protect his business interests. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden. Trump's efforts to urge Ukraine's president to investigate the Biden family has prompted the House of Representatives to open an impeachment inquiry.
Earlier this week, John Dowd, a former attorney for Trump who now represents Parnas and Furman, told the Miami Herald his clients would not comply with a request for documents and depositions from three House committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Parnas told the newspaper late last month he "got certain information" about Biden "and I thought it was my duty to hand it over."