Former Top FBI Agent Charged With Violating Sanctions Against Russia, Money Laundering and Aiding Oligarch

FBI Agent Charged
Charles McGonigal leaveing federal court in New York on Monday.Getty

A former top FBI official in New York has been charged by federal prosecutors with taking money from a Russian oligarch.

The former head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York was charged this week with money laundering and violating sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, federal prosecutors said.

Charles  McGonigal, 54, was charged in separate indictments unsealed in New York and Washington, D.C., following an investigation by federal prosecutors and his former employer, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

McGonigal retired from the FBI in 2018 after 20 years and was a top official in Russian foreign counterintelligence and investigating oligarchs, authorities said. He was arrested Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport and appeared Monday in federal court, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He was released on a $500,000 bond.

While acting as special agent in charge of FBI counterintelligence efforts in in its New York office, McGonigal allegedly received $225,000 in cash from a former foreign intelligence operative, according to prosecutors.

McGonigal and former Soviet diplomat Sergey Shestakov, 69, allegedly worked in 2021 for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, investigating one of his Russian rivals in exchange for  cash payments, the indictments said.

"In 2019, McGonigal and Shestakov worked on behalf of Deripaska in an unsuccessful effort to have the sanctions against Deripaska lifted," said a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office. "In November 2021, when FBI agents questioned Shestakov about the nature of his and McGonigal’s relationship with Deripaska’s agent, Shestakov made false statements in a recorded interview," the statement added.

Shestakov, who also pleaded not guilty Monday, was released on a $200,000 bond. 

McGonigal’s lawyer, Seth D. DuCharme, told reporters his client was not guilty of the charges against him.

“Charlie served the United States capably, effectively, for decades,” said DuCharme. “We have closely reviewed the accusations made by the government and we look forward to receiving discovery so we can get a view on what the evidence is upon which the government intends to rely.”

Shestakov is a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who later obtained American citizenship and worked as an interpreter in New York federal court and for U.S. Attorney's offices in the state's Southern and Eastern Districts, the indictments said.

“As public servants, they should have known better,” said Damian Williams, a federal prosecutor for the Southern District. In a statement, he vowed his office would pursue prosecution against “those who violate U.S. sanctions enacted in response to Russian belligerence in Ukraine in order to line their own pockets.”

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