Prosecutors told the jury that the illegal fundraising efforts documented in text messages and other trial evidence gave Parnas access to elected officials and candidates. They showed photos of Parnas with Trump and Giuliani, who was the president’s personal lawyer, schmoozing at high-end political fundraisers.
Prosecutors also said Parnas lied to the Federal Election Commission about the source of the hefty 2018 donation, which he said in filings was from his start-up company Global Energy Producers. The company was in fact not profitable and not functioning as a real business, prosecutors argued. The donation was actually sourced through a mortgage refinance loan obtained by Parnas’s business partner, Igor Fruman, the jury found.
Fruman — whose alleged role in the events was regularly discussed in testimony at the trial — pleaded guilty last month to one count of soliciting foreign campaign contributions. He’s due to be sentenced early next year.
Outside the courtroom after the verdict on Friday, Parnas said: “I’ve never hid from nobody. I’ve always stood to tell the truth.”
Parnas faces a total maximum of 45 years in prison when he’s sentenced.
While Parnas’s trial did not directly relate to Giuliani or Trump, the guilty verdict still provides a legal coda to a precarious moment in Trump’s presidency: his first impeachment trial. Parnas, a Ukrainian native, was recruited to help Giuliani seek damaging information on Joe Biden and his son Hunter before the 2020 election. Trump was accused of threatening to withhold badly needed aid to Ukraine if officials there did not announce a criminal investigation into the Bidens.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested on the campaign-finance charges in October 2019, not long after news broke of a phone call in which Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to open a Biden investigation. Once a Trump fan, Parnas turned on the president after being arrested, offering documents and assistance to congressional Democrats and apologizing for his role in Giuliani’s scheme.
Parnas is also slated to face a second trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan for charges related to defrauding investors in what prosecutors say was another sham company — Fraud Guarantee.
The venture purported to offer a service to other companies that protected them from fraud. But prosecutors allege that Parnas and another man, David Correia, were actually stealing from their investors. Correia has pleaded guilty to charges related to his role in that case.
As of now, Parnas will not be sentenced until after that trial.
In the trial that wrapped up this week, prosecutors alleged that Parnas used money from Russian financier Andrey Muraviev to try to curry favor with candidates he believed could help him and Fruman win licenses to operate cannabis businesses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagan Cordell Scotten noted that Parnas’s own former assistant, who testified under an immunity agreement with the Justice Department, said Parnas knew the laws he was skirting by concealing the true source of donations to candidates in several states where cannabis had recently been legalized.
“Parnas was told again and again that he couldn’t donate someone else’s money, and he couldn’t donate except from a citizen or a legal resident,” Scotten said.
One donation at issue in the trial was $10,000 in Fruman’s name that went to Adam Laxalt, the former attorney general in Nevada, who had ties to Trump and filed lawsuits on his behalf to try to overturn the election results in his state. Laxalt lost a race for Nevada governor in 2018.
Prosecutors say Muraviev sent two $500,000 payments that were meant to be infused into campaign coffers for people seeking offices such as governor and state attorney general. Parnas and Fruman allegedly used some of the money to pay bills.
Parnas’s lawyer Joseph Bondy argued Thursday in summations that the case was “absurd” and that Parnas wasn’t hiding his activities.
Andrey Kukushkin, who was also on trial for allegedly conspiring to use Muraviev’s money to get licenses for marijuana businesses, was convicted on multiple counts.
His attorney Gerald Lefcourt argued in summations that his client was unaware of Parnas’s maneuvering in political circles and that he “never intended to do anything illegal.”
Lefcourt said Parnas and Fruman thought Kukushkin was a “rube . . . someone they could get over on” to help them get to Muraviev’s money.
Kukushkin, who faces up to 10 years incarceration total, is slated to be sentenced on Feb. 16.
Parnas and Kukushkin are both naturalized U.S. citizens.
Rosalind S. Helderman in Washington and the Associated Press contributed to this report.