WASHINGTON — Two Soviet-born businessmen at the center of President Trump’s Ukraine scandal were arrested on Wednesday and charged with breaking campaign finance laws by donating foreign money and exceeding legal limits in an attempt to buy political influence.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman have been taken into custody, Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, told VICE News by phone on Thursday.
The charges relate to a series of donations —include one for $325,000 in May 2018 to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action that was funneled through an LLC called Global Energy Producers. The two men were charged with conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by VICE News.
Parnas and Fruman have said they helped guide Giuliani’s attempts to connect with Ukrainian officials while the former New York mayor pressed to have Trump’s 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden investigated.
House Democrats have sought testimony and documents from both men as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s ties to Ukraine.
The two men are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia later on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported, noting the exact nature of the charges remains unclear.
Giuliani has identified the two men as “clients” on Twitter, but they more recently hired Trump’s former attorney John Dowd to represent them.
The two men helped introduce Giuliani to three current and former senior Ukrainian prosecutors to discuss politically sensitive information, according to a detailed profile of the two men by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and BuzzFeed News.
Parnas previously told The Miami Herald that he helped arrange a skype call between Giuliani and Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Viktor Shokhin.
Giuliani and Parnas were pictured having breakfast together by a Reuters reporter in the Trump Hotel in Washington in late September.
Democrats are pursuing an impeachment inquiry against Trump over steps he took to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.
Cover: Rudy Giuliani, Former Mayor of New York City speaks to the Organization of Iranian American Communities during their march to urge "recognition of the Iranian people's right for regime change," outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 24, 2019. (Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)