Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman
Lev Parnas (born February 6, 1972) and Igor Fruman (born 1966) are a duo who work in real estate, politics, and business who were connected to Rudy Giuliani. The two were illegally sent to Ukraine to search for damaging information of various political rivals, prominently Joe Biden, and are involved in a United States political scandal involving Ukraine.
They were both arrested at Dulles International Airport on charges of transporting funds to politicians to influence affairs between the United States and Ukraine. Lev Parnas is currently agreeing to cooperate with investigators. Fruman has remained silent since arrest.
In 2018, Parnas and Fruman hired Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, to serve as a consultant as the two, according to Giulani, were "ramping up" a security business with the felicitous name "Fraud Guarantee". (Parnas had chosen the name "Fraud Guarantee" in 2013 to clean up his Google search results after accusations of fraud in previous ventures.) Florida authorities had apparently dissolved Fraud Guarantee in September 2014 for failing to file an annual report, which would have limited the company to activities related to closing itself down.
The Republican donor, Trump supporter and Long Island attorney Charles Gucciardo paid Giuliani on behalf of Fraud Guarantee in two $250,000 payments, in September and October 2018.
Late in 2018, Giuliani allegedly sent the two to Ukraine to search for damaging information on Trump's U.S. political rivals. According to The New York Times, "Their mission was to find people and information that could be used to undermine the Special Counsel's investigation, and also to damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden." Both were allegedly also at the center of the pro-Trump forces' push to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, because her loyalty to President Trump was deemed deficient as Trump pursued his agenda there. It is also alleged that the two pressed for support for allegations that former Ukrainian officials schemed to manipulate the 2016 election to support Hillary Clinton, by revealing adverse information about Paul Manafort, chairman of Trump's campaign, which became a central element in Mueller's special counsel investigation.
Also, over the course of a year beginning in 2018, the two men allegedly introduced Giuliani to Ukrainians who were amenable to promoting "a largely unsubstantiated narrative about the Bidens." These included Yuriy Lutsenko, a former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, who was critical to Giuliani's efforts to produce damaging information. Viktor Shokin, also a former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, was part of this group. Parnas and Robert F. Hyde reportedly exchanged messages indicating that then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance and that they were working to have her removed.
The New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), along with SDNY prosecutors, are conducting a criminal investigation of Giuliani's relationship with Parnas and Fruman. Giuliani is under investigation for potentially violating lobbying laws. Parnas was initially being legally represented by John M. Dowd, who was Trump's personal attorney in the Mueller investigation in 2017-18, until he fired him and hired Joseph A. Bondy. Dowd initially represented Fruman as well.
Fruman and Lev Parnas were arrested on the evening of October 9, 2019, at Dulles International Airport, and charged with planning to direct funds from a foreign government "to U.S. politicians while trying to influence U.S.-Ukraine relations". They had one-way tickets to Frankfurt, Germany, and were reported to be going to Vienna, Austria. The reason for their arrest was described as a "complex web of financial and political interactions linking diplomacy to alleged violations of campaign finance law." The head of the New York's FBI office described the investigation as "about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking".
The charges have also allegedly connected Parnas and Fruman to the campaign to oust the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, from her post and have her recalled. This occurred over many months. In 2018, the operation included Parnas and Fruman donating funds and pledging further additional moneys to an unnamed Congressman, who was recruited for the "campaign to oust her." Some of the funds violated campaign limits. The funds were funneled through a shell company, Global Energy Producers. Parnas and Fruman were also charged with unlawful campaign contributions. Based on campaign finance filings, former congressional Representative Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has been identified as the unnamed Congressman. In 2018, as the Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that Yovanovitch should be fired for privately expressing "disdain" for the Trump administration.