Lev Parnas, a one-time associate of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was convicted Friday on charges that he illegally funneled money to U.S. political campaigns in an attempt to win favors and boost a fledgling marijuana business.

Manhattan jurors convicted the Soviet-born operative who worked alongside Giuliani in order to denigrate political opponents challenging President Donald Trump. 

Parnas, along with Andreykukuushkin, were found guilty as part of an elaborate scheme to “manipulate” the United States’ political system in order to gain financial gains. Manhattan U.S. District Attorney Damian Williams reported that Parnas had been found guilty.

Williams explained that they had illegally funneled foreign funds into midterm elections in 2018 to gain political influence and make huge profits from the cannabis industry. “Campaign finance laws are designed to protect the integrity of our free and fair elections–unencumbered by foreign interests or influence–and safeguarding those laws is essential to preserving the freedoms that Americans hold sacred.”

Parnas and another Soviet-born associate, Igor Fruman, were instrumental in the effort to find damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden — the scheme that led to the first impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Learn more:Lev Parnas became Rudy Giuliani’s spokesman in Ukraine as a middleman by joining Team Trump.

Last month, Fruman pleaded guilty to solicitation of a contribution by a foreign national.

Parnas and Fruman, both of whom dined with Trump in the White House and showered Republican campaign committees with $500,000, helped Giuliani meet with a Ukrainian prosecutor to push for an investigation of Biden.

Parnas (49) insists that his lawyer has proven to him that he had never received money from Andrey Muraviev in order to make political donations.

Kukushkin, a Ukraine-born investor, was convicted as part of an effort to use foreign money for political contributions. Kukushkin had denied any wrongdoing.

Giuliani remains under criminal investigation as authorities decide whether his interactions with Ukrainian officials required him to register as a foreign agent, but he wasn’t alleged to have been involved in illegal campaign contributions and wasn’t part of the New York trial.

Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's personal lawyer, walks ahead of his Ukraine-born associate Lev Parnas, left, at the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush on Dec. 5, 2018.

The case did, though, give an up-close look at how Parnas entered Republican circles in 2018 with a pattern of campaign donations big enough to get him meetings with the party’s stars.

Parnas, Fruman, as well as the donation of $325,000 to America First Action through an energy company were accused by prosecutors. They also claimed that Parnas orchestrated donations to U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) and other House Republican committees.

Trump and Giuliani weren’t mentioned at all during the trial. But, there was a picture of Parnas holding hands with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (a Republican) was shown first to jurors in closing arguments. Jurors were able to view a video of Giuliani and Parnas as part of deliberations.

DeSantis received campaign donations that were traced back to $1 million Parnas received from Russian businessman Andrey Muraviev. Fruman has also been involved with several U.S. marijuana ventures.

About $100,000 of Muraviev’s money went toward campaign contributions in what Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagan Scotten called a conspiracy to secretly bring his “wealth and corruption into American politics” in violation of laws barring foreign donations to U.S. political candidates.

“The voters would never know whose money was pouring into our elections,” Scotten said.

Adam Laxalt was the former Nevada Attorney General and is now running for U.S. Senate. He testified at trial that Parnas had suggested to him that he could raise hundreds upon thousands of dollars in 2018. He eventually came through only with a $10,000 check that Laxalt’s lawyers told him to reject.

Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, called the allegations against his client “absurd.”

He insisted in his closing argument that Muraviev’s money went toward supporting legal marijuana businesses looking to expand.

Kukushkin’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, sought to portray his client as an unknowing dupe in the scheme, who was mocked behind his back by other participants as mentally challenged.

Fruman (Parnas’ ex-partner) is currently awaiting sentencing. David Correia was also guilty of fraud and sentenced to one year imprisonment for defrauding investors. The insurance company had given Giuliani $500,000 in consulting fees.

Parnas is awaiting a second trial for that scheme.

Giuliani claims that he was unaware of any illegal political contributions made by Fruman or Parnas. The former mayor says everything he did in Ukraine was done on Trump’s behalf and there is no reason he would have had to register as a foreign agent.

Contributing to the Associated Press

Source: USAToday.com

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