Lev Parnas Partner David Correia Gets One Year in America First Case
(Bloomberg) -- A business partner of two men who aided Rudy Giuliani’s effort to dig up dirt on President Joe Biden in Ukraine was sentenced to a year in prison, after he pleaded guilty to U.S. campaign finance and fraud charges.
David Correia, who was charged in 2019 along with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, admitted to making false statements to election officials and conspiring to defraud investors. Together with a fourth man, they allegedly participated in a wide-ranging scheme to solicit campaign donations while advancing their business interests in the U.S.
Correia, 45, pleaded guilty in October -- the first admission of guilt by any of the defendants in the case -- without a cooperation agreement. Prosecutors, who described the Florida businessman as the “closer” in the fraud and showed the court a letter from an “infuriated and humiliated” victim, had sought a sentence of about three years and a fine of $15,000 to $150,000.
“I feel true remorse for my previous actions,” Correia said during an hour-long remote hearing Monday before a federal judge in New York. “These actions do not reflect who I want to be in life, and I will never repeat them.”
The charges against Correia were part of a larger case against him and his co-defendants for their roles in helping Giuliani try to find politically damaging material about Biden, then a rival to Donald Trump for the presidency. Prosecutors said Parnas and Fruman intertwined their contributions to politicians with requests to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time. The subplot became part of the basis for Trump’s first impeachment. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty.
The final decision on Correia’s sentence was up to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken in Manhattan, who didn’t fine Correia but ordered him to forfeit $43,000, his share of the fraud proceeds. Oetken said he was giving Correia a reduced sentence because of the relatively small sum he got from the scheme and because of a medical condition. If he gets credit for good behavior, he will probably serve about 10 months after he surrenders to marshals next month.
But what Correia reaped from the fraud is different from what the victims lost, and he must repay investors $2.3 million with 15% of his future monthly income.
The false-statements charge related to a $325,000 donation Parnas and Fruman made to the America First political action committee, an independent campaign fund promoting issues championed by Trump. The donated funds were represented as coming from an energy company that had no real business operations, but they put Parnas and Fruman on the political map, according to prosecutors.
The fraud charge stemmed from a nominal company the men set up that was intended to sell a form of insurance to investors that would protect against investment losses in instances of fraud. The company, named Fraud Guarantee, never launched any insurance products or sold any policies, and authorities say investor capital was instead diverted to lavish personal expenses.
Prosecutors said Correia was the one in charge of persuading victims to invest. He solicited money for Fraud Guarantee, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos said during the hearing.
“While acknowledging the damage that comes from fraud, they were stealing money,” Roos said.
Letters From Investors
In preparation for sentencing, prosecutors submitted letters to the judge from investors who lost money in the fraud scheme.
“I was obviously viewed by these men as a fool who had unknowingly invested in their lies and fraudulent company,” one wrote. “I am infuriated and humiliated that these men were able to defraud a successful business person like myself as well as others.”
Another victim said he wished Correia “no ill will” and asked the judge to be lenient in his sentencing.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against Correia and Parnas last week related to the scheme, which Correia settled.
The case is U.S. v. Parnas, 19-cr-725, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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