As anticipated, former FBI official Charles McGonigal pled guilty on Tuesday to one count of conspiracy in federal court in New York arising out of his efforts to aid Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in evading U.S. sanctions.
The Information filed Tuesday (and which can be viewed in its entirety below) alleged one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which authorizes the president to regulate international commerce, including investigating and imposing controls on transactions and freezing foreign assets under U.S. jurisdiction when a national emergency is declared as to any external “unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States.”
The Information alleges that in furtherance of the conspiracy, McGonigal:
a. From in or about August 2021 through in or about November 2021, McGONIGAL and others, acting at the behest of Oleg Deripaska, whom the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated as a Specially Designated National on or about April 6, 2018, sought to gather derogatory information about a rival of Deripaska, in violation of IEEPA.
b. From in or about August 2021 through in or about November 2021, McGONIGAL and others received and routed payments from Deripaska through two corporations, neither of which was registered in the name of McGONIGAL or Deripaska, in an effort to conceal that the payments originated from Deripaska.
McGonigal was originally charged with five counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering (and conspiracy to commit same), and violating the IEEPA (and conspiracy to commit same). Pursuant to Tuesday’s plea, the remaining four charges will be dismissed.
McGonigal, 55, was formerly the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s counterintelligence division from 2016 to 2018, which ironically meant that he was involved in investigating former President Donald Trump for Russian collusion, then essentially engaged in it himself. As streiff explained in January:
McGonigal was a key figure in creating the Russian Hoax. He’s the guy who received the allegation made by Australian High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer that Trump campaign aid George Papadopoulos said the Russians have “dirt on Hillary.” For a trip down memory lane, read Was a Drunken Conversation Really All the Probable Cause the FBI Needed to Investigate a Presidential Campaign?
While the media is harping on the “Russian oligarch” narrative because they can never admit Hillary Clinton’s opposition research team thoroughly punked them, it is useful to remember that in 2009, FBI Director Robert Mueller approached Deripaska about funding a private effort to locate American citizen, former FBI agent, and suspected CIA asset Robert Levinson who had gone missing in Iran. More memories can be found at There Might Be a Very Good Reason Why Mueller Is Not Indicting Paul Manafort’s Russian Business Partner. Even as the Russia Hoax was unfolding, Hillary’s oppo team at Fusion GPS was working on getting sanctions removed from Deripaska, which is the same activity that got McGonigal indicted; see
New York Times Forced To “Correct” Major Story on the Manafort Case. I don’t know the trajectory of McGonigal’s career, but it is entirely possible he was in the New York Field Office when Mueller tried to turn Deripaska into an FBI asset.
At the plea hearing on Tuesday, McGonigal expressed remorse for his actions.
The former FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s counterintelligence division from 2016 to 2018 told the federal judge that he took over $17,000 from Deripaska in exchange for collecting derogatory information on a different Russian oligarch. Deripaska was a business competitor with the person McGonigal was paid to find derogatory information on.
Additionally, McGonigal was allegedly working to help get Deripaska removed from the sanctions list, prosecutors said.
The American was in talks, along with co-conspirators, to get a $650,000 to $3 million fee to search for hidden assets of $500 which belong to Deripaska’s business rival.
“This, as you can imagine, has been a painful process not only for me, but for my friends, family and loved ones,” McGonigal said. “I take full responsibility as my actions were never intended to hurt the United States, the FBI and my family and friends.”
In addition to facing up to five years in prison, McGonigal must forfeit $17,500 pursuant to his plea agreement. He is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
Charges against McGonigal for misleading the FBI regarding his contacts with foreign nationals and concealing $225,000 he allegedly received from an Albanian intelligence employee remain pending in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.