The FBI arrested one of its own, a retired counterintelligence field supervisor, over ties to a sanctioned Russian oligarch.
The FBI arrest and charges
Charles McGonigal, who once ran counterintelligence in the New York field office, was arrested on Saturday afternoon (January 21). ABC News and Fox News covered the story. The FBI arrested him as he stepped off a plane at John F. Kennedy International, after traveling in Sri Lanka. The FBI also arrested Sergey Shestakov, a former diplomat for the old Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation, who was serving as a Russian-language court interpreter in Manhattan.
McGonigal and Shestakov are charged under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) with conspiracy to violate and evade U.S. economic sanctions. Specifically the government charges that the two worked with one Oleg Deripaska to have his sanctions removed. Mr. Deripaska is a Russian oligarch now under sanction since April 6, 2018 for acting on behalf of an unidentified Kremlin official, and in the Russian energy sector. They also are charged with money laundering and conspiracy to launder money, in that they took Deripaska’s money to investigate a rival oligarch. Each count carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
The sanctions arise out of Executive Order 13660, which President Barack Obama issued in 2014. That order declares a national emergency with regard to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
An exquisite irony
Ironically, McGonigal provided the tip that started the Trump-Russia investigation (Operation Crossfire Hurricane). He was then serving as chief of cybercrimes investigations at the Washington, D.C. headquarters. He retired from the FBI in 2018.
On Monday afternoon (January 23), McGonigal and Shestakov appeared in a Manhattan court. There the judge unsealed an indictment against the two. McGonigal entered a plea of Not Guilty.
Michael Driscoll, FBI assistant director in charge, released a statement that read in part:
The FBI is committed to the enforcement of economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, especially against hostile activities of a foreign government and its actors.
Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion, and violence. As alleged, Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov, both U.S. citizens, acted on behalf of Deripaska and fraudulently used a U.S. entity to obscure their activity in violation of U.S. sanctions. After sanctions are imposed, they must be enforced equally against all U.S. citizens in order to be successful. There are no exceptions for anyone, including a former FBI official like Mr. McGonigal.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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