NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors are likely to file updated criminal allegations in a case against two associates of Rudy Giuliani and two co-defendants, a prosecutor said in court Monday.
A possible updated indictment would add to the charges that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born U.S. citizens, already face: conspiring to funnel foreign money into the U.S. election system.
The two men worked closely with Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, to pressure the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
In a hearing in Manhattan federal court Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind sparred with defense attorneys over getting access to evidence the government has seized.
Parnas plans to cooperate with a subpoena from House impeachment investigators seeking information that partly overlaps with the criminal case, said Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Parnas. But he’s been held up because he doesn’t have access to the evidence, Bondy said.
Zolkind said government investigators are working quickly to provide copies of material from multiple electronic devices seized from the defendants, as well as physical documents. He said FBI experts were working to extract electronic material, and the process could be speeded up if the defendants handed over their passwords.
Bondy also asked a federal judge to ease the conditions of Parnas’ pretrial release. He’s subject to 24-hour GPS monitoring and can’t leave his Florida home except for religious services, medical reasons and meetings with his attorneys.
Zolkind said the government opposes loosening the restrictions because Parnas has close ties to influential people in Ukraine and could leave the U.S. before federal authorities could stop him.
U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken did not rule immediately on that request, instead asking Parnas’ attorneys to get input from federal pretrial services.
Parnas, Fruman and two co-defendants are charged in a scheme to funnel foreign money to U.S. election candidates and campaign committees, funding that is illegal under campaign finance laws.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The funding, some of it disguised through so-called straw donors, was aimed at boosting the campaigns of Trump-supporting candidates and political action committees, advancing the political interests of an unidentified Ukrainian government official, and bankrolling a planned cannabis retail business.
Some of the funds secretly came from an unidentified Russian businessman who is neither a U.S. citizen nor a legal permanent resident, the indictment alleged.
Zolkind did not provide any information in Monday’s hearing about what charges could be in an updated indictment and whether it would include additional defendants.
The case poses political and legal issues for Trump, as well as possible legal problems for Giuliani.
A Parnas-Fruman company, Global Energy Producers, was credited with giving $325,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee in May 2018. However, the indictment said financial records showed the money came via a circuitous route through a loan linked to Fruman.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October when they tried to board a one-way flight to Europe. After photos surfaced of the two men with Trump, the president said he poses for photos with many people and didn’t know them.
However, Trump also suggested that they might have been clients of Giuliani. In a tweet, Giuliani has referred to the men as his clients.
Parnas and Fruman are among prospective witnesses House Democrats want to question in their ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Reportedly angered by Trump’s disavowals, Parnas has signaled a willingness to provide some information to House impeachment investigators.
According to the indictment, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin joined Parnas and Fruman in July 2018 to make plans for a “recreational marijuana business” that would be funded by an unidentified Russian foreign national.
Correia drafted a table of prospective political donations. The table allegedly described a multistate licensing strategy that would funnel $1 million to $2 million in contributions to federal and state political committees.
Fruman contributed $10,000 of the foreign national’s funds on Nov. 1, 2018, to a candidate for a Nevada office, the indictment alleged. State campaign finance filings show Fruman contributed to the campaigns of two Republican candidates: Adam Laxalt, former state attorney general, and Wesley Duncan, former state assembly member.