A U.S. jury on October 22 found Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen Lev Parnas, a onetime associate of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, guilty of violating campaign finance laws during the 2018 elections.
Parnas was found guilty on all six counts of federal election law violations that he faced, including illegally helping a foreigner contribute to a U.S. election campaign, making contributions in the names of others, and lying to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
Prosecutors in New York City said Parnas used funds from Russian businessman Andrei Muravyov to make political contributions to candidates while lying about the source of the money.
Parnas and his former associate Igor Fruman, a Soviet-born Florida businessman, were accused of soliciting funds from Muravyov to donate to candidates in states where their group was seeking licenses to operate cannabis businesses in 2018.
Parnas also concealed that he and Fruman were the true source of a donation to a group supporting former U.S. President Donald Trump, prosecutors said.
Another Muravyov associate, Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen Andrey Kukushkin, was on trial alongside Parnas. Kukushkin was pronounced guilty on just one of the criminal charges.
The defendants' attorneys argued during the trial that the two men were not involved in campaign contributions but rather conducting business, including on behalf of an energy company and legal marijuana industry startups.
After the guilty verdicts were announced, Parnas said he had never hidden anything.
"I've always stood and tried to tell the truth," he said as he left the court.
In his closing statement Parnas’s attorney Joseph Bondy characterized his client as a passionate proponent of marijuana legalization who was "in well over his head." He argued that Muravyov's money funded business operations, not campaign contributions.
Bondy said he would be filing a motion to vacate the verdict "in the interest of justice."
U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken denied a request from prosecutors to detain Parnas and Kukushkin. Oetken set February 16 as the sentencing date for Kukushkin but did not set a sentencing date for Parnas, who faces another possible trial on separate fraud charges.
The trail has drawn attention because Parnas and Fruman helped Giuliani pressure Ukrainian government officials to produce political dirt on then-presidential candidate Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election campaign.
At the time, Giuliani was Trump's personal lawyer, and his association with Parnas and Fruman in 2019 helped trigger the first impeachment of Trump.
Giuliani, who served as a U.S. prosecutor in the 1980s before he was elected New York's mayor in 1994, has not been charged with any crimes and denies wrongdoing.
Fruman pleaded guilty in September to one count of soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreigner.