Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who helped the personal attorney of President Trump look for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine, named his company “Fraud Guarantee” in an attempt to hide fraud allegations against him in search results, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.
Parnas was indicted along with Igor Fruman on campaign finance charges after the pair allegedly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign donors to political campaigns, including $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC. They have since pleaded not guilty.
Parnas became the butt of countless late-night hosts’ jokes after it was revealed that he ran a company called “Fraud Guarantee.”
The company has attracted no “identifiable customers,” generated no returns for its investors and defaulted on its office lease after failing to pay the rent, The Journal reported. The firm paid Giuliani $500,000 for what he has called business and regulatory advice.
As part of their relationship, Parnas and Fruman reportedly helped Giuliani’s effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens and the 2016 election while the pair gained access to President Donald Trump’s circle. What, exactly, Giuliani did for Fraud Guarantee is unclear, as is what the company did in general.
Parnas picked the name “Fraud Guarantee” in part to “clean up his Google search results, ensuring that the word ‘fraud’ and his own name would be paired in a positive light,” The Journal reported. He allegedly hatched the plan after running a penny-stock company called Edgetech International, which distributed a pre-iPhone mobile device called the Edge. The company soon ran out of money, and Parnas was sued for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands from investors. Numerous online comments flooded the Internet with posts describing the company as a fraud.
Parnas’ plan to game the search results with “Fraud Guarantee” apparently worked, and the negative search results related to the claims against him soon fell in Google’s search rankings, according to the report. The story Parnas and co-founder David Correia, who was also indicted, fed to investors was very different. The pair claimed that they set up the company to help others who were defrauded by business partners.
“We were victims ourselves and realized there is truly no recourse for having been defrauded,” Correia claimed in a 2015 email to potential investors, according to the report.
Sources familiar with their business plans told The Journal they initially planned to vet potential investors for companies but later changed their plan after a consultant suggested they sell insurance policies to clients worried about investing in fraudulent companies. While the ultimate business plan was unclear, the two reportedly spent large sums of money to lure investors.
In 2015, Parnas posted a photo with Trump’s first wife Ivana at a Miami restaurant. “Fraud Guarantee pow wow at Lique The atmosphere TRUMPS the rest! #FraudGuarantee #IvanaTrump #bigbusiness,” he wrote in the caption.
One investor told The Journal he gave the company startup funds after Parnas promised him a return as soon as the company launched. But "the investor said the money was never recovered,” according to The Journal.
Giuliani’s ties to Parnas and Fruman have come under scrutiny from federal investigators.
The FBI and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, the office which Guliani led when he was a U.S. attorney, are investigating his financial dealings with the pair. A New York attorney told CNN federal counterintelligence agents began asking about Giuliani as early as February.
Investigators are also looking at Giuliani’s business dealings in Ukraine, CNN reported, and “whether a foreign influence operation was trying to take advantage of Giuliani's business ties in Ukraine and with wealthy foreigners to make inroads with the White House.”