Former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New York Counterintelligence Division Charged with Violating Russia Sanctions

In an ironic twist (or you just can’t make this up moment, whichever you prefer), the Justice Department announced the arrest of Charles McGonigal, the former Special Agent in Charge (“SAC”) of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York, along with Sergey Shestakov, a former Russian diplomat, in a five-count indictment for violating Russian sanctions and money laundering laws.  The charges stem from services provided to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska after retired from the FBI.

On April 6, 2018, OFAC designated Oleg Deripaska as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”).  Deripaska is a well-known Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin.  Deripaska was at the center of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign and Administration for ties to the Russian government.

McGonigal is a former SAC of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.  He retired in 2018.  While at the FBI, McGonigal supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska.  Sergey Shestakov is a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who later became a U.S. citizen and worked as a Russian interpreter.

Starting in 2021, McGonigal and Shestakov provided services to Deripaska in violation of the U.S. sanctions against Russia.  At Deripaska’s request, McGonigal and Shestakov agreed to investigate a rival Russian oligarch in return for payments from Deripaska.  McGonigal and Shestakov sought to conceal Deripaska’s involvement through a variety of techniques, including avoiding naming of Deripaska in electronic communications, using shell companies as counterparties in the contract outlining the services to be performed, using a forged signature on the contracts and using the same shell companies to send and receive payments from Deripaska.

The indictment charges that McGonigal and Shestakov knew that their actions violated U.S. sanctions based on several factors, including the fact that: while serving as SAC, McGonigal received classified information that Derispaska would be added to a prohibited list of oligarchs subject to U.S. sanctions; and, in 2019, McGonigal and Shestakov were engaged by Deripaska in an unsuccessful effort to persuade OFAC and the U.S. government to lift sanctions against Deripaska.

In November 2021, the FBI interviewed Shestakov about his relationship with Deripaska and Shastakov made a number of false statements during the recorded interview.

The indictment charges McGonigal and Shestakov with one count of conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, one count of violating the IEPPA, one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of money laundering.  Shestakov is also charged with one count of making false statements.

In a separate case, McGonigal was charged with concealment of receipt of $225,000 in cash from a European businessman who had been an employee of a foreign intelligence service while McGonigal was serving as the SAC in New York City.  McGonigal was charged in a nine-count indictment for concealing from the FBI his relationship with a former foreign security officer and businessperson who had ongoing business in foreign countries before foreign governments.

Specifically, between August 2017 and continuing past his retirement in 2018, McGonigal requested and received $225,000 in cash from the individual and traveled abroad with the individual to meet with various foreign nationals.  The individual later served as an FBI source in a criminal investigation involving foreign political lobbying over which McGonigal had supervisory responsibility. 

McGonigal is charged with concealing material facts and six counts of making false statements.  Also, McGonigal is charged with two counts of falsification of records and documents.

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