Lev Parnas will face 20 months in prison on campaign finance and wire fraud charges, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, closing out a criminal case against a Ukrainian-American businessman whose alleged role in helping Rudy Giuliani dredge up dirt about President Joe Biden made him a key figure in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment.
Judge Paul Oetken also ordered Parnas to pay about $2.3 million in restitution and face three years of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York said in a statement.
Parnas was convicted last year of illegally funneling a Russian oligarch’s money into several 2018 political campaigns, a scheme prosecutors say was designed to nudge politicians to give licenses to a recreational marijuana business.
He also pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud charges for siphoning off investors’ money from a company he co-founded to insure businesses against fraud (the company’s name, coincidentally, was Fraud Guarantee).
Parnas’ lawyer asked Oetken to sentence his client to time served, arguing in a letter that Parnas is “remorseful for his conduct,” but federal prosecutors asked for 78 to 97 months of prison time, stating in a memo Parnas “lied and swindled and corrupted for his own benefit” and “put himself above this country, his investors, and the public.”
Several Parnas associates have already been sentenced. David Corriea pleaded guilty for his ties to the Fraud Guarantee scheme and was later sentenced to about a year in prison. Igor Fruman and Andrey Kukushkin also got one-year sentences for their roles in the campaign finance scheme. Charges against the Russian businessman who allegedly provided money for the illegal campaign donations—Andrey Muraviev—were announced in March, over a year after he was first indicted, but federal prosecutors think he’s still in Russia.
Parnas and Fruman were first arrested over the campaign finance scheme in late 2019 at Dulles International Airport. The dramatic arrest, which reportedly took place before the pair could board a flight to Europe with one-way tickets, came as the two once-obscure businessmen became players in the scandal that led to Trump’s first impeachment. Fruman and Parnas—two U.S. citizens who hail from Belarus and Ukraine, respectively—allegedly worked with Giuliani during Trump’s term to dig up damaging information about Biden’s actions in Ukraine as vice president, and sought to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was seen as an impediment to their scheme. Trump was later accused of withholding aid to Ukraine in an effort to strongarm President Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing a corruption investigation into Biden, which led to Trump’s impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate.
Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy told Forbes in a statement following his client’s sentencing hearing “today is … not a somber day,” adding Parnas’ legal team is “proud of Lev for his commitment and courage in his efforts to assist the First Impeachment Inquiry.”
Federal agents searched Giuliani’s apartment last year, reportedly part of a separate probe into whether the former Trump attorney illegally lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs. Giuliani has not been charged with a crime.