Former FBI SAC Charles McGonigal Indicted for Crimes Spanning from 2017 to 2021

When I said on Saturday that, “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few stray indictments [relating to Oleg Deripaska] we haven’t seen yet,” I wasn’t specifically thinking of former Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s New York Counterintelligence Office, Charles McGonigal, who was arrested that same day in SDNY for conspiring to hide that he was working for Deripaska.

Though I had noted Scott Stedman’s report, which itself piggybacked on a Wendy Siegelman catch of a FARA filing from McGonigal’s alleged co-conspirator, Sergey Shestakov, which laid out the relationship.

In fact, DOJ seems to be treating this case — and a DC indictment given less prominence in DOJ’s releases today — as a public integrity prosecution first, and only after that the kind of national security case that the other Deripaska cases have been. That is, this is about how Deripaska and his associates used McGonigal’s alleged corruption to harm national security, and not the way McGonigal made a corrupt decision to work with Deripaska.

DC US Attorney Matthew Graves even suggested that’s the trajectory by which McGonigal came to be working for one of the Russians he should have been hunting. “Covering up your contacts with foreign nationals and hiding your personal financial relationships is a gateway to corruption.”

The DC charges pertain to $225,000 in payments McGonigal took from a former Albanian security official while he was still at the FBI. After taking the payments, McGonigal initiated an investigation into someone lobbying for competing Albanian interests.

According to the nine-count indictment, unsealed today, from August 2017, and continuing through and beyond his retirement from the FBI in September 2018, McGonigal concealed from the FBI the nature of his relationship with a former foreign security officer and businessperson who had ongoing business interests in foreign countries and before foreign governments.  Specifically, McGonigal requested and received at least $225,000 in cash from the individual and traveled abroad with the individual and met with foreign nationals.  The individual later served as an FBI source in a criminal investigation involving foreign political lobbying over which McGonigal had official supervisory responsibility.  McGonigal is accused of engaging in other conduct in his official capacity as an FBI Special Agent in Charge that he believed would benefit the businessperson financially.

Effectively, a top CI official was on the take from someone who then used that influence to take out a rival.

The charges in DC include a bunch of false statements and obstruction counts (though the obstruction could amount to twenty years in prison).

The NY charges accuse McGonigal and Shestakov of working with someone else in an attempt to get Oleg Deripaska’s sanctions lifted.

Even before McGonigal left the FBI, he was doing favors for someone listed as Deripaska’s agent (I’ll come back to him, but I believe his identity, too, is public). Then starting in 2018, McGonigal and Shestakov started working with a law firm, which earlier reporting identified as Kobre & Kim, in an attempt to help Deripaska get his sanctions lifted. Then after K&K stopped pursuing that effort in 2020, McGonigal and Shestakov continued to work for Deripaska, laundering the funds through a Friend (who may be the Albanian, in which case that may be where they discovered the tie to him).

Because of the money laundering in the SDNY indictment, it may in practice include a stiffer sentence than the DC one.

As I said above, on paper (based, in part, on the prosecutors assigned) this is being treated as a public integrity problem that led to a huge counterintelligence one. There’s not even any mention of the KleptoCapture initiative started in response to the Russian war.

But like the Deripaska investigations, I expect this one will continue for a while.

Update: I want to talk a bit about what I mean that these are Public Integrity indictments with a CI twist.

The DC prosecution team consists of two DC USAO attorneys, with the assistance of a senior NSD executive.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth Aloi and Michael Friedman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, with assistance from Acting Deputy Chief Evan Turgeon of the DOJ’s National Security Division Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

In addition to a bunch of January 6 cases in the last two years, Aloi is on the Navarro team and the case against two guys who pretended to be DHS agents to get close to some FBI agents. Most if not all of her January 6 cases included cooperation agreements. Michael Friedman’s January 6 cases included two involving threats, and two involving movement right wingers, including Zeeker Bozell, the scion of the family.

The DC team seems like one you’d use to try to get McGonigal to cooperate to unwind whatever other fuckery he did at the FBI.

The SDNY prosecution team consists of three public integrity prosecutors and an NSD one.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hagan Scotten, Rebecca T. Dell, and Derek Wikstrom are in charge of the prosecution with assistance from Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

All the SDNY prosecutors have been involved with very large multi-defendant conspiracies. Hagan Scotten was involved in the Rudy Giuliani and Parnas Fruman investigation. Derek Wikstrom was on the Build the Wall (Steve Bannon) team.

Scott Claffee has been involved in some of the highest profile Chinese counterintelligence prosecutions. But he’s also involved in at least one of the other Deripaska-related cases, the one involving dual use sourcing.

But by far the most interesting lawyer involved in this case is McGonigal’s defense attorney: Seth DuCharme, a top Billy Barr aide who was at the center of numerous Barr efforts to protect Trump associates.

Including Rudy.

Especially Rudy.

Finally, a word about timing.

The SDNY indictment came first. That indictment is dated January 12.

That press release hails the Border Patrol, and given that the arrest happened at JFK, that may be why SDNY went first.

DC got its indictment on January 18. That same day there was a sealed document placed in the SDNY docket, perhaps related to the other case

Update: Here’s his bio from when he was promoted to the NY position.

Charles McGonigal Named Special Agent in Charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office

FBI Director James B. Comey has named Charles McGonigal as the special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office. Mr. McGonigal most recently served as the section chief of the Cyber-Counterintelligence Coordination Section at FBI Headquarters.

Mr. McGonigal entered on duty with the FBI in 1996. He was first assigned to the New York Field Office, where he worked Russian foreign counterintelligence and organized crime matters. During his tenure in New York, Mr. McGonigal worked on the TWA Flight 800 investigation, was assigned to the task force investigating Wen Ho Lee, investigated the 1998 terrorist bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and investigated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Mr. McGonigal was assigned to an investigative response squad, which focused on pending international terrorist threats in the New York City area.

Mr. McGonigal was assigned to the Cleveland Division where he investigated white-collar and violent crime matters. In 2002, Mr. McGonigal was promoted to a supervisory special agent in the Counter-Espionage Section at FBI Headquarters, where he handled several high-profile espionage investigations. In April 2004, Mr. McGonigal was promoted to chief of the Asia-Near East Counterintelligence Unit.

In 2006, Mr. McGonigal was promoted to field supervisor of a counter-espionage squad at the Washington Field Office. In this capacity, Mr. McGonigal was in charge of many high-profile espionage, economic espionage and media leak investigations resulting in criminal prosecution. In 2014, Mr. McGonigal was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office’s cyber, counterintelligence, counterespionage, and counterproliferation programs. Mr. McGonigal earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1990 and completed a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. McGonigal will assume this new role at the end of October.

For those trying to assess whether he was a part of the Russian investigation, he largely missed it. I think he would have been in the loop after he moved to NY, but he didn’t show up in the Sussmann trial.

61 replies
  1. Fraud Guy says:

    It’s unfortunate that the money that can turn folks like this is chump change to those who can throw it around.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      $225k is two years of salary for a Special Agent? It’s absolutely insane to risk your career and freedom for that kind of money.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Perhaps on the promise of later payments, this was a number that McGonigal thought would not attract too much attention from the DoJ Main. However, everything connected to Deripaska will have attention from DoJ Main when it comes to sanctions. Wasn’t this a yacht that ‘got away’ even temporarily? That kind of thing would make the other investigators dig harder.

        • Rayne says:

          I have to wonder if McGonigal bet the farm on Trump staying in office another term and getting some form of clearance/approval/pardon for whatever he was doing, assuming Trump was going to get cut in or was already cut in.

      • Peterr says:

        It likely came with a claim like “There’s more where that comes from, if this relationship works out. I have *lots* of rivals I’d like taken out.” $225k might not be enough to risk your career, but $225K and a promise of a future $22.5M might do it.

        Of course, it also serves as a hook. “Nice place you’ve got here. Be a shame if someone were to nose around and find out about that $225k . . .”

        • Drew in Bronx says:

          $225K doesn’t seem like a lot when we look at numbers thrown around the press, etc., but in unreported/untaxed cash, it’s more like what you’d take home from >$400K. It’s not the kind of amount that most of us would trade prison time for, etc but it’s pretty considerable, especially if it involves people who you prefer to hang out with and more opportunity to be traveling & doing deals with them & higher ups.

          Also, of course, $225K is what they have him dead to rights on, it is not necessarily everything he received.

          [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. I have changed your username on this comment this one time to agree with the name you’ve used in the past; I don’t think you intended to use your RL name, did you? Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Ewan says:

      $225K is what they are think they can prove and get a conviction for. It does not mean it is the amount they are quite confident was taken, but cannot prove in a court, or the amount they suspect.

      • El Ingeniero says:

        But based on this indictment, they could go through all his financials and issue a superseding indictment if they found more, right?

        • Drew in Bronx says:

          They could also issue a superseding indictment on other charges, such as espionage or bribery. (I do wonder whether he is indicted this way to avoid involving classified documents in his defense–if they can get a guilty plea and cooperation about the various ways in which classified interests are compromised it may never come to light what all they have on him)

  2. Rugger_9 says:

    Interesting, and Lawyers Guns and Money also has this highlighted. IIRC, this looks like the deeds were done during the prior administration, and it appears things rolled faster after 2018.

    2018 was the year of the infamous Helsinki summit and also about the time of the NATO nonsense by Individual-1. IIRC, that’s when one of the private meetings took place without US interpreters present, so perhaps Shestakov’s op came out of that top-level agreement.

    Needless to say, McGonigal needs to be prosecuted like the other spies (i.e. Ames, etc.) and never see a free day again if convicted. Maybe we can trade Shestakov for Whelan.

  3. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    Is it significant that, in the NY indictment, one of the two US Attorneys who signed the indictment is redacted?

      • Ryan says:

        Is the former FBI agent who now works for an international professional services firm, who dined with McGonigal and Person A likely to take on importance at some point, or is that just included to show McGonigal was regular introducing Person A to useful people?

        [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. More than one community member also shares the name “Ryan.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

  4. rattlemullet says:

    Will this related back to the Russian election influence effort?

    [HEY. CHECK YOUR USERNAME FIELDS FOR TYPOS BEFORE HITTING THE ‘POST COMMENT’ BUTTON. This is the second comment you’ve posted today which had an error in the email address. I’ve fixed both, but the next one won’t clear, capisce? /~Rayne]

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      It already does, albeit indirectly. McGonigal’s lawyer, Seth DuCharme, is a Bill Barr loyalist who was installed at EDNY in 2020 during the shuffle that put Richard Donohue at DOJ. During this time, Barr was still involved with John Durham’s (ultimately futile) quest to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation, with the goal of undermining its integrity. More and more it seems that those crying “Russia HOAX!” the loudest themselves have closest proximity to Russia.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Since we’re talking about then and now, here’s some salty news from the Florida marshlands. Remember when Susie Wiles saved a seat for Natalia Veselnitskaya on June 14, 2016 at a hearing related to the Magnitsky Act?

      Now Susie Wiles has left Ballard Partners. On 2/7/22, Mercury Public Affairs announced Susie Wiles as Co-Chair for the firm. By the end of that month, the firm had cut ties with EN+ (Deripaska) due to the sanctions against Russia for having invaded Ukraine. It’s an interesting coincidence. I don’t know what to make of it. Maybe nothing.

      I recently learned that Susie’s famous sportscaster father, Pat Summerall, had a master’s degree in Russian history. Hmm. I can’t help but wonder what he would have thought about Trump and his interactions with Russia.

      Susie Wiles’ friend, former Florida AG (and a member of Trump’s impeachment defense team,) Pam Bondi, may still be employed by Ballard Partners, the firm Susie Wiles left.

      I have not read the transcripts, but it has been reported that Cassidy Hutchinson said:

      “Pam [Bondi] texted me that night and said something to the effect of: ‘Susie [Wiles], Matt Schlapp, and I had dinner with POTUS at Mar-a-Lago tonight. Call Matt next week. He has a job for you that we all think you’d be great at. … You are the best. Keep up the good work. Love and miss you.’”

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Good. I’m glad somebody finally has. Not sure I have the stomach to read it though. But I look forward to learning more about the PACs and money trails. I did read that Wiles played a significant role in tanking Cheney.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Thanks, Marcy! One of the reasons I’ve been like a dog on a bone about her is because of what an attorney once confided in me about something he said she did with respect to the grievances I had. It was something I believed was both unethical and potentially unlawful. I have come to think of it as corrupt. But there was never any actual evidence I had available to me, for a variety of reasons.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Unethical and potentially corrupt? This is Pam Bondi we’re talking about–she of the shelved Trump investigation in the wake of a 25K donation, pre-2016 election.

        • earthworm says:

          Japanese knotweed, (Reynoutria japonica, synonyms Fallopia japonica and Polygonum cuspidatum) an extremely hard to eradicate, invasive plant that is a commercial source of resveratrol, the “viagra substance.”
          Rayne is sly.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Sorry, SL. I missed the switch to Susie Wiles in the Bondi friendship discussion. Which shows my own obsession; to my eyes, Bondi has flaunted a disgusting opportunism for years.

          And vis a vis earthworm’s comment, I can’t even plead stoner’s flakiness on this one: It’s *not weed* that made me sloppy earlier–more like too much caffeine.

  5. Rapier says:

    Let’s see. It’s been an open secret for nearly 6 years that the some in NY FBI office were working with Rudy on behalf of Trump. So, ah, yea, great work FBI.

  6. viget says:

    Boy that Deripaska really had everyone fooled, huh?

    Ughhh… Hopefully the FBI at least got some good Intel out of this.

  7. chum'sfriend says:

    From Josh Marshall;
    “Put this down as more irony than smoking gun. But for those of us who’ve had serious questions for a long time about the FBI’s New York field office, especially in the run up to the 2016 presidential campaign, here’s an interesting detail. Charles McGonigal was put in charge of counterintelligence at the New York field office some time in the second half of October 2016, just about exactly when the Clinton emails case was reopened in the final days of the campaign.”

    • gertibird says:

      According to the article Rayne posted on him above in the comments McGonigal was promoted to New York FBI Field office in September 2016.

      • Rayne says:

        We don’t have information to validate what’s in that CV-like document; it’s not clear who created it or shared it. It may parallel what’s in McGonigal’s LinkedIn profile — I haven’t checked because I don’t have LinkedIn access — but both that archived doc and the LinkedIn profile could be spoofs, could be inaccurate, could contain fabrications.

        Remember with McGonigal we’re dealing with somebody who can’t be trusted, a truly unreliable narrator. Second and third independent sources may be necessary.

      • emptywheel says:

        I posted his bio IN THIS POST.

        He got there too late to have done a lot of the things in question.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Albeit not too late to help cover them up.

          This whole episode has me thinking how “fortuitous” it was for Trump that he got the FBI’s Russia expert Peter Strzok run out of the bureau before Strzok could get a bead on any of this.

  8. dadidoc1 says:

    Deripaska was also working with Paul Manafort. This just makes me want to say “Russia. Russia. Russia.”

  9. Disgusted says:

    Given Rudy’s friendships with the NY office and given the New York office’s role in scuppering Hillary, is it time to maybe take another look at that?

    Ah, who am I kidding … that supposes a country that actually remembers things.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. While “Disgusted” meets the 8-letter minimum, it’s not unique enough; it appears there have been other community member(s) who’ve used the same/similar name. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • punaise says:

      “disgusted” is my middle name…

      especially upon hearing news of another mass shooting in CA, this one much closer to home in Half Moon Bay.

      grrrrr….. sorry for the OT.

  10. Bobster33 says:

    My brother-in-law was a buyer for Northrup Grumman in the 1990’s. He said once a year the FBI would show up and occasionally they would take someone away in handcuffs. One guy was arrested for selling secrets for $15,000. $15K was worth more back then, but still, I am amazed at how little people will accept for selling out their country.

    What could you do with $225K, certainly not leave the country and start a new life. With $225K, I suppose you could afford to pay off a Supreme Court Justice’s credit card debt.

    • BruceF says:

      While it is not a crime to be a Washington Nationals fan we still need to find out who retired Kav’s debt…

      • rbba says:

        Yes on Kavanaugh. Until the Dems cease to be out played by the cons, we will not be able to restore American credibility. Imagine the Republicans reclaiming the House after Jan 6. Imagine anyone after Thomas ensconsced on the Supreme Court without thorough vetting in spite of which party is in the White House.

    • bmaz says:

      No, thank you!

      I am Dr. bmaz. There is also Dr. Ed Walker, Dr. Jim White, Dr. Peterr, and Dr. everybody else.

      Call us all “Dr.” This is getting stupid and insulting.

      If you are going to deploy that term, do it consistently and honestly.

  11. RyanEvans says:

    Anyone have any thoughts on who “The Friend” from “the New Jersey Corporation” is? The Friend was working with McGonigal and hiding his identity prior to McGonigal leaving the FBI, according to the NY charging document. The leaked subpoena from the September Business Insider article lists a number of companies, but I couldn’t trace any of them to New Jersey. Perhaps not surprisingly, since that subpoena seems to relate to the DC / Albania charges.

    • RyanEvans says:

      Whoops. That was wrong. A&E International, named in that subpoena, is in New Jersey. Agron Neza is CEO. Perhaps he’s The Friend.

      There’s a hitch – Shestakov says that putting Fokin in touch with McGonigal resulted in “some kind of relationship with Spectrum Risk Solutions” that’s “still in progress”, which could be consistent with Spectrum Risk being the corporation to which McGonigal directed that payments go. Spectrum Risk Solutions seems to be incorporated in Delaware. But maybe that doesn’t contradict an assertion that it’s “based” in New Jersey.

      The subpoena does suggests a relationship between Neza and Spectrum Risk, though I can’t find any more info about the relationship online. There is an article that says Neza is also head of Spectrum Risk, but it’s paywalled, and it seems to source the CEO claim to the subpoena, which doesn’t actually say that.

      Note that The Friend was taken by surprise when the Deripaska payments started to come in, and asked McGonigal about it.

      At any rate, if my surmise above is correct, then Neza ties together the two investigations – he is at the center of the Albanian gambit, and his firm receives the Deripaska payments. He also created a fake identity for McGonigal. I wonder how deep and well-developed that identity was. Just an email and a phone? Or was there some sort of Albanian documentation to back it up?

      To put it another way, “The Friend” of the SDNY indictment may be Person A of the DC indictment.

      • RyanEvans says:

        Oh. Realizing Scott Stedman already made the claim that Neza is both Person A and The Friend, on his Mastodon account.

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