Retired high-ranking FBI agent in New York accused of violating sanctions against Russia by working with oligarch

The former head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York was charged in two indictments on Monday with undercover work for a sanctioned Russian oligarch and embezzling payments from a former foreign security officer during his tenure at the bureau.

The indictments against Charles McGonigal, filed in parallel with the indictments by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., were an embarrassing revelation for the FBI.

McGonigal retired from the FBI in 2018 after a two-decade career that included working in Russian foreign counterintelligence and investigating oligarchs. According to the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, he was arrested on Saturday after landing at Kennedy Airport.

McGonigal and court interpreter and former Soviet diplomat Sergei Shestakov worked for Putin aide and aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska in 2021, investigating one of his Russian rivals in exchange for secret payments, court records say.

Retired high-ranking FBI agent in New York accused of violating sanctions against Russia by working with oligarch

McGonigal, 54, and Shestakov, 69, violated U.S. sanctions imposed on Deripaska in 2018 through their work, according to a multi-count open indictment filed in Manhattan Federal Court.

McGonigal knew the work violated sanctions and tried to reverse the measures after leaving the FBI, the indictment documents say.

In a statement, Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, said McGonigal and Shestakov “should have known better.”

McGonigal pleaded not guilty before Manhattan Justice of the Peace Sarah Cave on Monday afternoon and was released on $500,000 bail. Cave imposed travel restrictions and McGonigal was forced to surrender his passport.

A sullen McGonigal walked out of court, holding his wife’s hand, not answering journalists’ questions. His lawyer, Seth DuCharme, said he had yet to see “no evidence”.

“Charlie has had a long and distinguished career with the FBI,” said DuCharme, the former head of the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office. “He served the United States for decades. Obviously this is a tough day for Mr McGonigal and his family.”

“We’ll look at the evidence,” Ducharme added. “We will carefully study it. And we have a lot of confidence in Mr. McGonigal.”

Shestakov also pleaded not guilty and was released on $200,000 bail. He was arrested Saturday at his home in Connecticut.

Shestakov’s attorney, Bennett Epstein, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McGonigal and Shestakov were charged with money laundering and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, which the US uses to impose sanctions on foreign countries. The maximum penalty for each of the four counts against the two men is 20 years in prison.

Charles McGonigal leaves Manhattan federal court.

Shestakov was also charged with one count of perjury, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

“The FBI is committed to enforcing economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, especially against hostile actions by a foreign government,” Michael Driscoll, assistant director of the FBI’s New York office, said in a statement.

“There are no exceptions for anyone,” Driscoll added, “including a former FBI agent.”

FBI stamp on a wall August 10, 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Referring to Russian aggression in Ukraine, the US Treasury Department in 2018 included the 55-year-old Deripaska in the list of persons subject to sanctions.

At the time, the US portrayed metal magnate Deripaska as a malevolent figure who appears to be acting on behalf of the Russian government and is subjected to a cloud of disturbing allegations. It is alleged that Deripaska ordered the execution of a businessman, and also engaged in extortion and racketeering.

According to the feds, McGonigal and Shestakov tried to cover their tracks by avoiding the use of Deripaska’s name in digital messages and using shell companies to send and receive payments from the oligarch.

In September, Manhattan prosecutors indicted Deripaska and three associates on multiple federal charges for circumventing U.S. sanctions, including conspiring to force his pregnant girlfriend to travel to the U.S. on a tourist visa to give birth on American soil.

During his 22-year career with the FBI, McGonigal investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks, led large-scale espionage investigations in Washington, D.C., and served as Chief of Cyber ​​Counterintelligence Coordination at FBI National Headquarters.

In late 2016, he was assigned as a special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the FBI field office in New York.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said McGonigal’s crimes began before he left the FBI in 2018.

Starting in August 2017, McGonigal hid from the bureau his relationship with a former Albanian security officer who later served as an FBI source, according to a nine-count indictment filed in Washington.

McGonigal allegedly received more than $225,000 from a man who is not named in court documents but identified as a New Jersey resident. Shestakov did not appear in this case.

Court documents describe that McGonigal received payments in the fall of 2017, including an $80,000 transfer in a parked car outside a New York restaurant and other exchanges at an unnamed person’s residence in New Jersey.

A trial date in Washington has been set for Wednesday, Manhattan prosecutors said. In Washington, McGonigal faces six counts of perjury, two counts of falsifying records, and one count of concealing material facts.

Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, said in a statement that his agency “will make every effort to investigate and prosecute anyone who breaks the law.”

“The way we maintain the trust and confidence of the American people,” he said, “is in our work—showing, when all the facts come up, that we stuck to the process and treated everyone the same, even if it was the same.” our own.”

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