Former ‘Top Spy Catcher’ Indicted on Multiple Counts of Wrongdoing
Former FBI Special Agent Charles McGonigal had a bad day yesterday. He was the subject of not one, but two U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press releases, each describing a set of charges he faces from separate incidents.
The release from the Southern District of New York detailed four charges: conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions as detailed in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), violating the IEEPA, conspiring to commit money laundering, and money laundering.
The charges detailed in the FBI’s Washington, DC, Field Office release were concealing material facts, six counts of making false statements, and two counts of falsification of records and documents.
In the New York case, the FBI alleged that in 2021 McGonigal and an associate, Sergey Shestakov, accepted money from Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, one of the oligarchs sanctioned by the United States in 2018, in exchange for investigating one of Deripaska’s rival Russian oligarchs. The charges also allege that McGonigal tried, unsuccessfully, to have Deripaska removed from the sanctions list in 2019, soon after McGonigal had retired from the FBI in September 2018. His position before retiring was special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York, a job The Washington Post reporters called “the top spy hunter in New York,” and included work that had him investigating Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska.
The unsealed indictment said McGonigal and Shestakov were careful to avoid using Deripaska’s name in communications and used shell companies to funnel the payments.
The case in Washington accused McGonigal of accepting payment of $225,000 from an unnamed person who had business interests in Europe. These accusations stem from 2017, when McGonigal still worked for the FBI. The unnamed person had also previously worked in Albania’s intelligence operation. The FBI reported that in exchange for payment, McGonigal travelled abroad with the person and met with foreign nationals.
In addition, the Post reported, McGonigal did not disclose that he had an ongoing relationship with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. Months after receiving the payment, the FBI alleged that McGonigal was successful at getting the Bureau to open an investigation into an American lobbyist who worked for an Albanian political party that rivalled Rama.
As a New York Times report said, “Charges against current or former FBI senior executives are rare.”
“This is an unprecedented case, which rightly or wrongly will fuel political criticism and concern about the FBI,” Jonathan C. Poling, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s national security division, told the Times. “The charges demonstrate DOJ clearly intends to send a strong message, including to former officials that worked in national security fields.”
McGonigal pled not guilty on Monday to the charges in the New York case, and he was released on bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned by video conference in Washington on Wednesday.