Lev Parnas, the businessman from Florida who is an associate of Rudolph Giuliani, was convicted Friday of campaign finance crimes, including funneling money from a Russian entrepreneur to U.S. political campaigns. The jury took only a couple of hours to decide that Parnas was guilty on all six felony counts. They determined that Parnas committed fraud by making donations to state and federal candidates that were paid for by a Russian financier. Parnas had been accused of setting up at least $156,000 in political donations with money from Russian businessman Andrey Muraviev that was an effort to obtain legal cannabis licenses in several states. Parnas was also accused of making a $325,000 contribution to a joint fundraising committee that supported then-President Donald Trump through a shell company. A co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, was also convicted on Friday.
Parnas, who was deeply involved in Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden’s son during the presidential campaign, had insisted he didn’t use Russian money for political donations. “I’ve never hid from nobody. I’ve always stood to tell the truth,” Parnas said. His lawyer said he would appeal the decision. Throughout the trial, prosecutors said the fundraising efforts had been documented in text messages that show how the cash gave Parnas access to elected officials and candidates. He now faces a maximum of 45 years in prison, but any sentence is likely to be far below that number. Although prosecutors had urged the judge to jail Parnas immediately, he declined.
Giuliani was not on trial but jurors did see photos of Parnas with Trump and the former New York mayor. Giuliani has vehemently denied he knew anything about the illegal campaign donations. But he does seem to be part of a related investigation into potential illegal activity related to lobbying for foreign governments.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement following the verdict. “Campaign finance laws are designed to protect the integrity of our free and fair elections—unencumbered by foreign interests or influence—and safeguarding those laws is essential to preserving the freedoms that Americans hold sacred.”