Indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas received a $1 million payment from Russia and tried to hide it from investigators, prosecutors said in a Wednesday court filing.
Parnas, who was charged with illegally funneling foreign cash to Republican politicians, including a pro-Trump super PAC, received $1 million from an account in Russia in September, which he failed to disclose to the government, according to the filing.
“The majority of that money appears to have been used on personal expenses and to purchase a home,” prosecutors said.
The filing said the money was sent to an account in the name of Parnas’ wife, Svetlana, and appeared “to be an attempt to ensure that any assets were held in Svetlana’s rather than Lev’s name.”
Parnas has “access to seemingly limitless sources of foreign funding,” the filing said, adding that he spent $70,000 on “private air travel” in September.
Parnas, who was born in Ukraine, and his associate Igor Fruman were indicted in October; both men pleaded not guilty. They were key players in Giuliani’s search for damaging information against President Donald Trump’s reelection. Parnas is the founder of Fraud Guarantee, a dubious consulting firm with no “identifiable customers” that paid Giuliani $500,000. The payment from Russia raises “new questions about the nature of the work” they were doing and “who they were doing it for,” Bloomberg News noted.
Prosecutors say Parnas and Fruman donated funds to Republicans in an effort to enlist them in their effort to oust then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who testified that she was recalled after a smear campaign by Giuliani. Along with their work with Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman are accused of meeting at Trump’s Washington hotel to discuss a Ukraine gas deal linked to Yovanovitch’s removal.
The filing came as prosecutors asked the judge to revoke Parnas’ bail, claiming that he had lied about his finances.
“Parnas poses an extreme risk of flight, and that risk of flight is only compounded by his continued and troubling misrepresentations,” prosecutors said.
The accused reported that he and his wife had about $450,000 in total assets and income, but prosecutors said in the filing that he had more than three times that amount. Parnas was initially held on a $1 million bond that was reduced to $200,000 after he claimed he could not pay the initial amount. The prosecutors’ filing came in response to Parnas requesting less restrictive bond conditions.
"Parnas' considerable ties abroad, seemingly limitless access to foreign funds, lack of candor with pretrial services about his assets, nature and circumstances of the offense and powerful incentives to flee show that Parnas is a significant flight risk," the filing said. "It would not be difficult for Parnas to leave the United States and live abroad: He also speaks fluent Russian, appears to own no property within the United States aside from two vehicles and his wife and children could flee with him.”
The filing said that there was already “overwhelming” evidence against him when he was arrested and "has only become stronger since Parnas’ arrest, as the government has executed numerous search warrants, interviewed witnesses and obtained additional documents from third parties."
"Parnas is also aware that he is under investigation for additional crimes, and that it is likely that he will be charged with additional offenses,” prosecutors added. “Given the weight of the evidence, the likelihood of forthcoming charges and the expected length of the potential sentence, any individual would be highly incentivized to flee; with Parnas’ particularly strong ties abroad, that incentive is even greater.”
Parnas' and Fruman’s dealings have also embroiled Giuliani in a federal investigation by the same office he once headed as a U.S. attorney. Prosecutors have issued subpoenas looking at more than half a dozen potential charges in connection with the scheme, including serving as an unregistered foreign agent, contributing foreign money to U.S. campaigns, making false statements to the federal government, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., making contributions in a false name, mail fraud and wire fraud. Giuliani has also drawn scrutiny over whether he personally stood to profit from his dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing and has not been accused of any crime.
The previously unreported Russian payment to Parnas raised more questions about their work, as well as that of Giuliani.
“Let me get this straight. Giuliani has been touring the world digging up dirt on Democrats in the company of a suspected felon who has received $1 M payments from mysterious sources in Russia,” tweeted Washington Post national security correspondent Greg Miller.
Michael Carpenter, a former Pentagon official who served as the Director for Russia on the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama, suggested that the payment could be part of a more nefarious plot.
“That’s a lot of money even by Russian oligarch standards,” he wrote on Twitter. “Something tells me they didn’t him as an entrepreneurial genius but rather as a useful cog in a larger influence operation.”