Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani who gained close access to Donald Trump, has been convicted by a New York jury of charges that he illegally made campaign contributions to influence American politicians and advance his business interests.
A Manhattan jury on Friday delivered the verdicts against Parnas, who also worked with Giuliani, Trump’s former personal lawyer, to smear political rivals challenging the ex-president.
Parnas was on trial for over two weeks as prosecutors accused him of soliciting funds from Russian financier Andrey Muraviev to donate to candidates in states where the group was seeking licenses to operate cannabis businesses in 2018.
Parnas was found guilty along with co-conspirator Andrey Kukushkin as part of a scheme to "manipulate the United States political system for their own financial gain," Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams said.
"In order to gain influence with American politicians and candidates, they illegally funneled foreign money into the 2018 midterm elections with an eye toward making huge profits in the cannabis business," Williams said.
Parnas was found guilty on six counts of federal election law violations, including illegally helping a foreigner contribute to a US election campaign, making contributions in the names of others, and lying to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
He, however, had insisted through his lawyer that he never used the Russian's money for political donations.
"I've never hid from nobody," Parnas said as he left court wearing a black "Combat COVID" mask. "I've always stood and tried to tell the truth."
His attorney Joseph Bondy said a motion will be filed to vacate the verdict "in the interest of justice."
Parnas and another associate, Igor Fruman, donated $325,000 to America First Action, a super PAC supporting Trump, according to the prosecutors, who added the two orchestrated donations to US Rep. Pete Sessions, of Texas, and to other committees supporting House Republicans.
Giuliani and Trump were sparsely mentioned during the trial, although a photo showing Parnas with the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, was one of the first exhibits in closing arguments. Also, a video of Giuliani with Parnas was among exhibits jurors could view during deliberations.