Lev Parnas, Giuliani Associate, Faces New Fraud Charges

Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman who teamed up with Rudolph W. Giuliani to collect damaging information on President Trump’s political rivals, faced new federal charges Thursday that he duped investors in a company he founded that ostensibly protected consumers against fraud.

Mr. Parnas, who already had been indicted on campaign finance violations in October 2019, was accused in the additional charges of conspiring to defraud investors in the start-up he created, Fraud Guarantee.

The new indictment was announced by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan and by the F.B.I., which also brought the earlier case against Mr. Parnas and three other men. The new charges expand an already wide-ranging criminal investigation that has loomed over the president’s inner circle.

Mr. Giuliani, who is the president’s personal lawyer, has also been under investigation by the same federal prosecutors, who have examined whether he illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of a Ukrainian official. Mr. Giuliani has said he did nothing wrong.

The new round of charges does not center on Mr. Parnas’s connections to Mr. Giuliani, but on the start-up, Fraud Guarantee. Still, the indictment, coming less than two months before the presidential election, recalls a damaging incident in Mr. Trump’s tenure.

Prosecutors said Mr. Parnas persuaded an array of investors to pump more than $2 million into the company, which was intended to offer an insurance-like product to protect consumers. But Fraud Guarantee never got off the ground.

Mr. Parnas, 48, and his partner in the venture, David Correia, were charged with wire fraud conspiracy. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Correia had paid Mr. Giuliani $500,000 to endorse and advise the company, but he was not accused of wrongdoing.

Lawyers for Mr. Parnas and Mr. Correia were not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Parnas was a regular presence in Trump donor circles before the indictment last year, which heightened scrutiny of his dealings with Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Giuliani played a central role in a dirt-digging campaign aimed at Mr. Trump’s political rivals that led to the president’s impeachment last year.

In early 2019, Mr. Parnas, his associate, Igor Fruman, and Mr. Giuliani tried to persuade Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president who is now the Democratic nominee for president.

They also tried to dig up damaging information on Marie L. Yovanovitch, then the American ambassador to Ukraine. Mr. Trump eventually removed Ms. Yovanovitch from her post last year, a decision that was at the heart of his impeachment trial.

In the aftermath of his initial indictment, Mr. Parnas fired his Trump-aligned lawyers and cooperated with House impeachment investigators. Mr. Parnas has accused Mr. Trump of knowing about the campaign to collect dirt on his opponents.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman had been charged in the earlier indictment with campaign finance violations, including misrepresenting the source of a $325,000 donation to a pro-Trump fund-raising committee. The donation was made under the name of an energy company, though they were the true source of the contribution, that indictment had charged.

Fraud Guarantee was something of a passion project for Mr. Parnas, who has said he worked for years to get it off the ground, urging fellow Trump donors to invest in the venture. Then, in 2018, he turned to Mr. Giuliani for help.

He and Mr. Correia had noticed that Mr. Giuliani had publicly endorsed LifeLock, a company that offered identity theft protection. They thought Mr. Giuliani could do the same for Fraud Guarantee.

After arranging an introduction through a mutual acquaintance, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Correia pitched the company to Mr. Giuliani. In the following weeks, Mr. Parnas agreed to make an initial payment of $500,000 to Mr. Giuliani, and the pair began to strike up a friendship, The Times has reported.

For months, Mr. Parnas failed to come up with the payment to Mr. Giuliani, who was growing impatient. But by September 2018, Mr. Parnas persuaded Charles Gucciardo, a Long Island lawyer and Republican donor whom he had recently met, to invest in Fraud Guarantee and pay Mr. Giuliani directly.

Mr. Correia soon wrote to the company’s other investors, saying that Mr. Giuliani was “willing to put his name and reputation on the line” for Fraud Guarantee and “open doors.”

From there, Mr. Parnas, who was born in Ukraine, and Mr. Fruman, a Belarus native, joined with Mr. Giuliani on the Ukraine mission.

Michael Rothfeld contributed reporting.

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