DOJ Unseals 18-Month Old Indictment against Lev Parnas’ Financial Backer

Yesterday, SDNY unsealed an indictment against Andrey Muraviev, the Russian national who gave Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman $1 million to spend on pro-cannabis Republican politicians.

SDNY presented the indictment as part of an effort to protect US politics, and it was.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of an indictment against ANDREY MURAVIEV, a/k/a “Andrey Muravyov,” a Russian citizen, charging him with making illegal political contributions as a foreign national, and conspiring to make illegal political contributions as a foreign national in the names of straw donors. Muraviev is charged with conspiring with Lev Parnas, Andrey Kukushkin, and Igor Fruman, and others, who were convicted at trial or have pleaded guilty to these crimes.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian national, attempted to influence the 2018 elections by conspiring to push a million dollars of his foreign funds to candidates and campaigns. He attempted to corrupt our political system to advance his business interests. The Southern District of New York is committed to rooting out efforts by foreigners to interfere with our elections.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said: “As alleged, Muraviev, a Russian foreign national, made illegal political contributions and conspired with Parnas, Kukushkin and Fruman to obscure their true source. The money Muraviev injected into our political system, as alleged, was directed to politicians with views favorable to his business interests and those of his co-conspirators. As today’s action demonstrates, we will continue to aggressively pursue all those who seek to illegally effect [sic] our nation’s elections.”

But I’m still not sure what explains the unsealing of the indictment yesterday. It’s actually exactly the same as S1 — obtained the same day on September 17, 2020 — only with Muraviev charged rather than described as Foreign National-1.

Indictment: October 9, 2019

S1 Indictment: September 17, 2020

S2 Indictment: September 17, 2020 (unsealed March 14, 2022)

s3 Indictment: August 26, 2021

It may be just part of the effort to roll out charges against as many people — along with Jack Hanick and Elena Branson — for Russian influence peddling as possible right now. It may relate to Lev Parnas’ plans to plead guilty to the remaining charged charge against him (the Marie Yovanovitch related charge from the original indictment was removed in S1 to await Rudy’s inclusion).

Or perhaps DOJ unsealed it to make it easier to share with some other entity, such as Federal prosecutors in Florida who are investigating some of the pro-cannabis politicians who received Muraviev’s laundered campaign money.

27 replies
  1. BobCon says:

    I would love to see any more signs that DOJ or federal agencies in other areas are ready to bring other propaganda efforts out in the open.

    In particular if it’s to talk about the overlap between Russia, the GOP and the right wing media. I realize there are issues to be considered, in particular the First Amendment. But the indictment of Jack Hanick could be a good example of what can be justifiably prosecuted. And if there are more details on Paul Erickson or people like him, I think there are reasons to consider making more information public.

      • Peterr says:

        Interestingly, the indictments do not name those who received the contributions, identifying them by anonymous markers like “candidate-1”.

        I understand that the DOJ is not charging any of the recipients for knowingly accepting these contributions, and so would not want to tar them with a brush that suggests otherwise. On the other hand, these contributions are matters of public record, not protected in any way from public viewing.

        • Frank Anon says:

          Donations, especially around cannabis, are not always transparent. I’ve seen donations funneled through c(4)’s with no requirement to disclose, wads of cannabis cash washed through cut out corporations as cash itself is generally not permitted to be donated in most states in any relevant amount. Not that any of this is particularly illegal if properly done, just not at all transparent. I’ve also observed that a lot of cannabis-friendly candidates report heavy self-funding from family, like Matt Gaetz

          • bmaz says:

            As every time this pops up, would like to remind that the CU finding of speech is not necessarily wrong at all, and that the real problem is far more the decision in Buckley v. Valeo.

            • Ken Muldrew says:

              The problem is that limiting someone’s (or some corporate entity’s) spending on political influence is a restriction on their freedom of speech, is that more-or-less the gist of it?

              Could it be bypassed by:
              a. taxing the shit out of the rich so they have little enough left to buy politicos, or
              b. allocating vouchers to every enfranchised individual to be spent on the candidate of their choice and then issuing public funds as the sole source of campaign funds (with unspent vouchers being allocated through some algorithm) (Thomas Piketty’s proposal), or
              c. allowing unlimited spending but insisting that every single dollar is attributed to an individual human who is part of the franchise

              Other suggestions?

              • Scott Johnson says:

                Well, bribery remains illegal, so there’s something that separates unlawful corruption from lawful (and protected) advocacy.

                One would think that would consist of providing any actual consideration to an office-holder. Which is kind of where the law lies, but with loopholes wide enough to drive trucks through. Donations to political campaigns, which are supposed to maintain separate books from the candidate (so no money donated to Shmoe for President ever winds up in the pockets of Shmoe), nonetheless provide material benefit to Shmoe. They reduce the amount of self-funding needed (money being fungible), and increasing the chances that Shmoe be elected (and thus get to enjoy the power, perks, prestige, and such that come with office) is definitely a tangible benefit.

                And that ignores the sort of self-dealing Trump is a master at, with his political campaign engaging in some rather blatant patronage of other Trump-owned businesses, and often doing very little actual campaigning.

                • bmaz says:

                  “Well, bribery remains illegal, so there’s something that separates unlawful corruption from lawful (and protected) advocacy.”

                  Well, does it? Have you perused the McDonnell decision?

            • Molly Pitcher says:

              And I can never remember the Buckley v. Valeo case name, so I always lazily fall back on CU….

  2. Alan Charbonneau says:

    Florida’s cannabis cultivation law was amended right before it was passed. To be a cultivator, you had to have been a farmer for a minimum of 30 years. That’s right, 30 years!!!

    Some of the guys running around with Matt Gaetz are mixed up in this. I think the sex trafficking will be wrapped up in this.

    • Leoghann says:

      It appears they have a whole web of people who dated young women, snorted coke, stole money, and took illegal contributions. Weinberg is just the first domino. And that includes some really big dominoes.

    • vicks says:

      Something is holding up things in Florida, it COULD be related to grift involving pot regulations and lawmakers…
      This article gives background on Gaetz’s friend, Dr. Jason Pirozzolo, who was named by Greenberg as being on one of the trips that included under age girls. It appears Gaetz helped the doctor get rich.

      “In May 2014, just before the Florida Legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana law, then-state House Reps. Matt Gaetz and Jason Brodeur teamed up to add a provision to the bill forcing any company that wanted to grow and sell cannabis in Florida to also hire a physician as medical director”

      [Vicks, I need you to take more time when you enter your username/email/URL to ensure they match every time. Your posts end up in auto-moderation because of frequent typos/spelling errors. It’s annoying and time consuming to have to correct them just so your comment can appear here. /~Rayne]

      • Alan Charbonneau says:

        This is what I was thinking of, the 30-year minimum was obviously inserted to ensure special interests got the licenses. About as transparently corrupt as it sounds:

        “That’s because the day before the Florida Legislature formally approved the bill, Gaetz and the rest of the state House rewrote it in a way that severely restricted which businesses could apply to become one of five marijuana “dispensing organizations,” which would then be responsible for everything from growing the marijuana to processing, transporting and selling it.

        As a result of the change, the only companies that could apply for dispensing licenses were state-licensed nurseries — and even then, only nurseries that had been around for at least 30 years and had at least 400,000 plants.“

        So not just the medical director requirement, but the requirement to be an established (read “huge”) grower already are part of the bribing of public officials. The teenage sex trafficking is part of the bribe paid. Gaetz is in the middle of lots more than simply having sex with a 17-year-old.

        https://www.tampabay(dot) com/news/florida-politics/2021/05/09/matt-gaetz-helped-set-off-floridas-marijuana-green-rush-some-of-his-friends-allies-scored-big/

        • P J Evans says:

          400K plants reads to me like a wholesale nursery. (I worked at one for a year. 1-million some “Iceberg” roses – those white-to-pink roses used everywhere in landscaping.)

          • Alan Charbonneau says:

            It’s huge. I don’t know how much canopy a greenhouse grow operation uses, but indoors a 4’x4’ space (a single LED grow light) holds 9 plants, or 1.77 square feet per plant. 400,000 plants would represent 711,000,000 square feet of canopy.

            That’s 16.3 acres of canopy if grown indoors, not including aisles, but all plants touching each other. A real world grow room would add 50-100% for aisles, etc., so we’d have 24 to 32 acres of indoor space. Greenhouses might be a bit larger or smaller, it would depend on configuration, but they’d be huge, in any event.

            • P J Evans says:

              Like the giant warehouses that you can see in aerial photos. A quarter mile long and two or three hundred feet wide.

        • vicks says:

          I looks like Florida state representative Bashears has been accused more than once of helping to shape and then benefitting from this bill being amended at the last minute.
          If he was the former president of the State Nursery Association as Alan’s article states, it would make sense he’d be the go-to guy for his friends in the nursery business looking to get rich.
          Bashears family’s nursey made the cut, I have to wonder what it took for the other businesses (that matched the specs) to get their piece?
          And speaking of corruption in Florida
          An associate of Bashears – J.T. Burnette was convicted in August 2021 for “extortion and other charges” involving the Florida medical marijuana business, the article below starts off stating Burnette named Bashears as a co-conspirator and then goes on to describe more drama and drop more names.

  3. FL Resister says:

    If you want to look at Florida corruption look at Ron DeSantis who is manipulating entire state agencies to do his bidding.
    For example, at the Florida Department of Health, Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County’s health director, was given a leave of absence in early January “for raising concrn about the lack of vaccinations among the agency”s staff…in Florida’s sixth-largest county (Orlando area). “I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it.” he wrote to staff in early January.
    Passing the Don’t Say Gay and 15-week abortion bills his state legislature, his plan to redraw the maps shot down by judges, he releases Dr. Pino from temporary confinement effective March 15.

    April 2020 was the last time Floridians heard from their Surgeon General prior to DeSantis hiring Dr. Ladopo, who not only lied on his resume about his experience treating Covid patients, but also has just recommended that Florida’s children not be vaccinated for Covid.
    Dr. Rebekah Jones, originator and manager of Florida’s Covid-19 Dashboard was fired for insubordination in May 2020 and then tarred by the right. DeSantis then hired “an Ohio sports blogger and Uber driver as data analyst” per Pensacola Times 11/21/20.
    This is just a little bit of what we know about the Florida Department of Health. Who knows what he’s up to with the other departments and this guy is in line after Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.

    If I were to advise any young person pondering what to do with the rest of their lives amidst this wreckage, then it would be that if you have an affinity for it, can read until your eyes nearly bleed, desire to uphold justice, and realize that finding it is the sweetest fruit of your career – then enter law any way you find yourself most useful – lawyer, researcher, para, aide or analyst.

    • Rayne says:

      I have been waiting for someone in Florida media to do a deep dive into Ladapo’s background. No credible doctor suited to state’s health director role is as much of a cipher as he is. There’s something deeply wrong there.

      • FL Resister says:

        I’d settle for a reputable PhD dissertation on 21st Century political corruption in Florida.
        Lots of runners and vines here.

      • vicks says:

        I would start looking at his time between the early stages of the pandemic when Labado wrote this opinion piece and his shift to the dark side.
        Aside from his stance on lockdowns, Labado’s understanding of the seriousness of the virus seemed to track with the rest of the medical community, including his position that a vaccine would be needed to shut it down.

        • Rayne says:

          Ladapo has never been on the right side of the pandemic, which is what appealed to DeSantis. I’ll point out that piece he wrote in USAToday was published within 24 hours of my state’s shutdown beginning. He was already insisting shutdowns be short and we hadn’t even gotten half way through the first wave of the first major variant.

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