Former Top FBI Agent Pleads Guilty in Russian Oligarch Case

By Steve Neavling

The former high-ranking FBI agent accused of working for a Russian oligarch and conspiring to commit money laundering pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to a single reduce charge. 

Charles McGonigal, the former head of the counterintelligence of the FBI’s New York Field Office, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and laundering payments from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.  

McGonigal, 55, was charged in January with money laundering, violating sanctions against Russia while working with an oligarch, and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foreign national and foreign intelligence official. 

As part of a plea deal, McGonigal was able to plead guilty to a newly filed conspiracy count, which replaced the original indictment that included a more serious charge of violating U.S. sanctions and laundering money. 

In exchange for the guilty plea, McGonigal faces a maximum of five years in prison, instead of the original penalty of up to 20 years. 

“Charles McGonigal, by his own admission, betrayed his oath and actively concealed his illicit work at the bidding of a sanctioned Russian oligarch,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in a news release. “Today’s plea shows the Department of Justice’s resolve to pursue and dismantle the illegal networks that Russian oligarchs use to try to escape the reach of our sanctions and evade our laws.” 

McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, was accused of violating U.S. sanctions for trying to remove Deripaska from the sanctions list. In exchange for payments from Deripaska, McGonigal allegedly investigated a rival Russian oligarch. 

In a separate case, McGonigal was charged with concealing $225,000 that he allegedly received from a former Albanian intelligence employee. 

“After his tenure as a high-level FBI official who supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs, Charles McGonigal has now admitted that he agreed to evade U.S. sanctions by providing services to one of those oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York said. “This office will continue to hold to account those who violate U.S. sanctions for their own financial benefit.”

The FBI’s New York Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from CBP and the New York City Police Department. 

“Charles McGonigal broke his oath to defend the Constitution and turned his back on his duty to protect the American people in favor of his own greed by working for a sanctioned Russian oligarch,” said Suzanee Turner, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “Every day, the men and women of the FBI protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. No matter the perpetrator, even if it’s one of our own, the FBI will go to great lengths to investigate individuals who put their own interests above U.S. national security.”

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