A former Rudy Giuliani associate who refused to cooperate with the House Intelligence Committee during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment pleaded guilty in federal court to soliciting a donation by a foreign national to advance a cannabis business.
Igor Fruman, 56, was charged in his superseding indictment with six charges accusing him of a host of campaign financing shenanigans. Prosecutors say that Fruman and his accused co-conspirator Lev Parnas falsified records, plotted a straw donor scheme, made false statements to the Federal Elections Commission, and funneled money from a foreign national into U.S. elections.
On Friday, Fruman admitted to one of those charges: solicitation of a contribution by a foreign national in order to obtain licenses for a cannabis business in various U.S. states.
“One part of the business plan included donations to government officials in those states,” Fruman said.
Fruman agreed that he solicited a contribution from a foreign national who invested in the cannabis industry in order to facilitate this plan.
Though Fruman said he had “little experience” in the rules governing political donations, he acknowledged that he knew it was illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to U.S. elections.
“I deeply regret my actions and apologize to the court and the United States government for this conduct,” Fruman said, reading from his prepared statement.
Fruman will not be cooperating with the government.
Though the indictment thinly veils the nature of the contributions, federal records show that the six-figure donations went to such pro-Trump political action committees as Trump Victory and America First Action.
Federal prosecutors claim Parnas and Fruman used the shell company Global Energy Producers to funnel $325,000 in foreign cash into the latter Trump super-PAC.
First charged in October 2019, the Eastern European-born duo’s indictment revealed the inner workings of a plot to oust ex-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Fruman cut two $2,700 checks to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), signing one under Parnas’s name to duck campaign contribution limits, prosecutors say.
Sessions, a then-House Rules Committee chairman referred to as “Congressman-1” in Fruman’s indictment, would write a letter seeking Yovanovitch’s ouster after meeting with the pair. The Texas Republican lost reelection amid the scandal, but he won his old office back after the controversy simmered. Prosecutors do not accuse him of wrongdoing.
In April, federal agents executed search warrants on Giuliani’s New York City apartment and office as part of their investigation into his suspected efforts to remove Yovonavitch.
The connections to the Ukraine scheme took focus in Parnas and Fruman’s first indictment, but prosecutors omitted those allegations from the superseding charges.
Fruman’s guilty plea calls attention to the sharply different paths that he and his accused co-conspirator took. Parnas subsequently cooperated with Democrats in the Committee’s investigation. Fruman did not. Parnas later faced additional charges in connection with the company Fraud Guarantee. Fruman did not.
Days before their indictment became public, Trump’s then-lawyer John Dowd wrote a letter on their behalf. Fruman subsequently accepted the legal services of another attorney with ties to the Trump White House: Todd Blanche, who previously represented former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Parnas rejected that path, retaining Joseph Bondy and becoming an outspoken Trump critic. He spoke about the former president and his inner circle in several media interviews, dishing information about their machinations in Ukraine, Venezuela and Turkey.
If Fruman expected his silence would be rewarded by the Trump administration, he would have been sorely mistaken. The 56-year-old did not benefit from Trump’s cascade of 11th-hour pardons of his indicted associates, such as Manafort, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and several others.
Now, Fruman stands convicted of crimes that could put him in prison for up to five years. His federal sentencing guidelines, however, range from between 37 months to 46 months imprisonment, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken said.
Judge Oetken set Fruman’s sentencing for Jan. 21, 2022.
David Correia, a business associate of Parnas who did business with Giuliani in the company Fraud Guarantee, pleaded guilty to two federal charges in October. He is not cooperating with the government.
Trial for the remaining defendants, Parnas and Andrey Kukushkin, has been slated for Oct. 12. Kukushkin’s charges also relate to an alleged foreign donor scheme that prosecutors claim to have been designed to obtain licenses for a recreational marijuana business that never materialized.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York did not release a statement about today’s development, and Fruman’s attorney did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment.
(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
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