By Mark Morales, Devan Cole and Lauren del Valle, CNN
Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, was sentenced Wednesday to 20 months in prison in connection with to convictions on campaign finance, wire fraud and false statements.
Parnas was convicted last fall on six counts related to “influence buying” campaign finance schemes. Jurors found him guilty of scheming with co-conspirators to use a Russian backer’s money to fund political contributions they hoped to trade for political favor for their budding joint cannabis venture.
He also pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors in a company called Fraud Guarantee.
Federal prosecutors said Parnas and a co-conspirator “falsely claimed that the investors’ funds would be used solely for legitimate business expenses of Fraud Guarantee, when in fact the funds were largely withdrawn as cash, transferred to personal accounts, and used for various apparently personal expenditures.”
The two defrauded investors out of a total of more than $2 million, prosecutors said.
Parnas sobbed while he apologized to victims moments before he was handed the sentence.
“These are all people that are my friends. These are all people that trusted me and I lied to them,” Parnas told the court .
“Parnas will now serve time in prison for his many crimes. Not content to defraud investors in his business, Fraud Guarantee, out of more than $2 million dollars, Parnas also defrauded the American public by pumping Russian money into US elections and lying about the source of funds for political contributions,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
Following his sentencing, Parnas told reporters outside the court that he believes the judge’s decision was fair.
“I think the judge was fair considering all the circumstances. Because of my past I’ve made lots of mistakes,” he said. “I can admit them now and I can move on.”
Parnas was also sentenced to pay restitution of $2,322,500 and to three years of supervised release.
Funneling money to support Trump
As part of his scheme, the Ukrainian businessman was also convicted for using money from Igor Fruman — who previously pleaded guilty — and a fake company to funnel hundreds of thousands in political contributions to GOP and pro-Donald Trump committees and then lying about it to the Federal Election Commission.
A $325,000 donation to the America First Action super PAC at issue in the case was first flagged in a 2018 FEC complaint.
Parnas’ prison sentence is well below the amount of time he could have potentially served. He had faced up to five years in prison for each of five counts, and a sixth count for falsifying records to the FEC carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence. Federal prosecutors had recommended between 78 and 97 months.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested in 2019 at a Washington-area airport as they were boarding a flight to Vienna. The arrest came amid the House Democrats’ investigation — and eventual impeachment trial — of then-President Trump and launched two unknown Florida-based businessmen with shaky track records onto the global stage.
Parnas ultimately did not testify but he appeared to seriously consider the move in his own defense. Prosecutors were hoping to question Parnas on his quid pro quo propositions to Ukrainian politicians at Giuliani’s behest.
This story has been updated with additional details and background information.
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