MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Two South Florida businessmen who helped in Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and were donors to a pro-Trump fundraising committee, have been arrested on charges of violating campaign finance rules, according to the Wall St. Journal.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both of whom were born in the Soviet Union, are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia on Thursday.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested on a four-count indictment that includes charges of conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records.
The indictment says Parnas and Fruman “sought to advance their personal financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working” and took steps to conceal it from third parties, including creditors. They created a limited liability corporation, Global Energy Producers, and “intentionally caused certain large contributions to be reported in the name of GEP instead of in their own names,” according to the indictment.
Prosecutors charge that the two men falsely claimed the contributions came from a liquefied natural gas business. At that point, the company had no income or significant assets, according to the indictment.
In May 2018, gave $325,000 to the primary pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, through an LLC called Global Energy Producers, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The big PAC donation was part of a flurry of political spending tied to Parnas and Fruman, with at least $478,000 in donations flowing to GOP campaigns and PACs in little more than two months.
The money enabled the relatively unknown entrepreneurs to quickly gain access to the highest levels of the Republican Party, including face-to-face meetings with President Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.
In July 2018, the transparency advocay group, The Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint with the FEC saying the men had violated campaign-finance laws by using an LLC to disguise the source of their donations.
America First Action said the contribution had been placed in a segregated bank account following the complaint and has not been used for any purpose.
Since late 2018, Fruman, who had property in Sunny Isles Beach, and Parnas, who lives in Boca Raton, have introduced Giuliani to several current and former senior Ukrainian prosecutors to discuss the Biden case, according to the Wall St. Journal.
Parnas and Fruman have had discussions both with officials in Ukraine and the United States. These introductions and discussions have raised the questions as to whether they should register as foreign agents.
A government whistleblower complaint, one that led House Democrats last week to open the impeachment inquiry, cited media reports detailing Parnas and Fruman’s work introducing Giuliani to Ukrainian officials, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
On Monday, Parnas and Fruman were sent letters by three House committees requesting information as part of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, according to the Herald.
Parnas has a history of debt in South Florida.
In 2010, he solicited Michael Pues for a $350,000 bridge loan to help finance a movie called “Anatomy of an Assassin.” But he never paid the money back. Five years later, a judge in New York federal court ruled that Parnas owed more than $500,000 to a Pues family trust, according to the Herald.
Parnas has been sued over everything from a small-claims debt owed to a furniture maker in Delray Beach to unpaid legal bills to a $100,000 loan issued to Global Energy Producers.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)