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Former Giuliani associate Fruman expected to plead guilty in campaign finance case

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By Reuters
Former Giuliani associate Fruman expected to plead guilty in campaign finance case
Former Giuliani associate Fruman expected to plead guilty in campaign finance case   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Jonathan Stempel and Karen Freifeld

NEWYORK – A former associate of Rudolph Giuliani who worked to collect damaging information about Joe Biden before he became U.S. president is expected to plead guilty in a campaign finance case, court records showed on Monday.

Igor Fruman’s “change of plea,” which normally signals a forthcoming guilty plea, is scheduled for Wednesday in Manhattan federal court and could increase legal pressure on Giuliani, a onetime lawyer for former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Federal prosecutors are also examining Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, including whether he violated lobbying laws by acting as an unregistered foreign agent while working for Trump.

The Belarus-born Fruman and Ukraine-born businessman Lev Parnas face charges they concealed an illegal $325,000 donation they made to support Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, as well as lying to the Federal Election Commission.

They and another defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, have also been charged with illegally using donations to U.S. politicians from a Russian businessman to help them obtain licenses for a legal, recreational marijuana business.

The three defendants were charged in October 2019 and pleaded not guilty to an amended indictment last November.

An Oct. 4 trial is scheduled, though the defendants have said the Delta variant-driven COVID-19 surge makes that date unworkable and have requested a delay until Feb. 7, 2022. Prosecutors oppose a delay.

Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Fruman, declined to comment. Lawyers for the other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Time magazine’s 2001 “Person of the Year” for his response to the Sept. 11 attacks, has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Bob Costello, a lawyer for Giuliani, said he was not surprised at or concerned with Fruman’s expected plea, and that it had no effect on Giuliani.

“None. Zero,” Costello said. He added that Giuliani “wishes Mr. Fruman well.”

James Margolin, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan, declined to comment.

Fruman’s and Parnas’ case has drawn added attention because of their work with Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine.

Giuliani began representing Trump, a fellow Republican, in April 2018 as then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller probed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Giuliani enlisted Fruman and Parnas to help uncover dirt about then-presidential candidate Biden and his son, Hunter.

Prosecutors said they also assisted in an effort to remove then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump fired in May 2019.

Some Democrats have said Trump associates saw her as an obstacle to a probe of Biden and his son.

The criminal case against Parnas also includes charges he conned people into investing more than $2 million in a fraud insurance company, Fraud Guarantee, only to withdraw much of it for personal use, including political donations.

Giuliani told Reuters in October 2019 he was paid $500,000 for work on Fraud Guarantee.

Another defendant, David Correia, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge related to Fraud Guarantee and was sentenced in February to one year and one day in prison.