Retired chief FBI official involved in Trump-Russia probe arrested for ties to Russia, stealing $225K

Retired chief FBI official involved in Trump-Russia probe arrested for ties to Russia, stealing $225K
Oleg Deripaska in 2010 (Creative Commons)

A retired chief Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) official who reportedly worked on the Trump-Russia probe was arrested and charged in federal court for allegedly having close ties to a U.S. sanctioned Russian billionaire and stealing $225,000 in cash while investigating high-profile cases, The Washington Post reports.

Over the course of his 22 years as a top official at the agency, Charles McGonigal served in many roles including the chief of the FBI’s cybercrimes office in Washington, D.C., and chief of the FBI’s New York Counterintelligence office, in which he was responsible for investigating Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

McGonigal, Fox News reported, was one of the original FBI officials to discover Trump advisor George Papadopoulos’ claim that “he knew Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton,” which led to the start of the Trump-Russia probe, known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane, and allegations of election interference. A source revealed to Fox News that McGonigal “likely was briefed on Crossfire Hurricane at the time the investigation was launched.”

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However, unbeknownst to McGonigal’s colleagues, in 2019 — one year post-retirement — the former top agent teamed up with former Soviet and Russian official-turned U.S. citizen, Sergey Shestakov, to work alongside Derispaska in an attempt to remove him from the U.S. sanctioned list.

As a result, according to Fox News, McGonigal, 54, and Shestakov, 69, have both been charged with “one count of conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ("IEEPA"); one count of violating the IEEPA; one count of conspiring to commit money laundering; and one count of money laundering,” with the possibility of a “maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.”

McGonigal’s money laundering charge is a result of his “hiding payments totaling $225,000 that he allegedly received from a New Jersey man employed decades ago by an Albanian intelligence agency,” according to The Post.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams confirmed in a statement to Fox News that both McGonigal and Shestakov “previously worked with Deripaska to attempt to have his sanctions removed, and, as public servants, they should have known better.” Williams noted, “This Office will continue to prosecute those who violate U.S. sanctions enacted in response to Russian belligerence in Ukraine in order to line their own pockets.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump still calls Russia probe a 'hoax' and 'witch hunt.' It wasn’t: journalist

Speaking to the seriousness of sanctions, FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll said, "After sanctions are imposed, they must be enforced equally against all U.S. citizens in order to be successful." He continued, “There are no exceptions for anyone, including a former FBI official like Mr. McGonigal. Supporting a designated threat to the United States and our allies is a crime the FBI will continue to pursue aggressively."

McGonigal pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this week through his attorney and former Department of Justice official, Seth DuCharme, who claims to have “a lot of confidence” that his client will prevail. “As you all know, Charlie’s had a long distinguished career with the FBI. He served the United States for decades,” DuCharme noted. “This is obviously a distressing day for Mr. McGonigal and his family.”

The case may be distressing for McGonigal and his family, but it is also distressing for current agency officials.

"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," Driscoll said. "Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion, and violence."

READ MORE: 'Carefully, precisely, surgically': Russian oligarch tied to Putin admits to interfering in US elections

Addressing McGonigal’s alleged disloyalty, Donald Alway, FBI assistant director at the Los Angeles field office, contended that “McGonigal is alleged to have committed the very violations he swore to investigate while he purported to lead a workforce of FBI employees who spend their careers protecting secrets and holding foreign adversaries accountable.”

But despite distress, FBI director Christopher A. Wray is confident that the agency upheld its responsibility with integrity. “The way we maintain the trust and confidence of the American people is through our work — showing, when all the facts come out, that we stuck to the process and we treated everyone equally, even when it is one of our own,” Wray said. “We hold ourselves to the highest standard, and our focus will remain on our mission and on doing the right thing, in the right way, every time.”

READ MORE: 'Putin is getting desperate': National security experts warns that Russia’s leader won’t give up easily

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