Charles McGonigal, ex-FBI official linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, arrested

A former FBI counterintelligence official has been charged in two separate cases involving his dealings with foreign operatives, including efforts to assist Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who was accused last year of violating U.S. sanctions against the Kremlin.

Charles McGonigal, who once headed the FBI's New York Counterintelligence Division, also is accused in the separate case of receiving $225,000 in cash from a former foreign intelligence source who provided information to the bureau in investigations that McGonigal oversaw.

The payments began flowing to McGonigal a year before his 2018 retirement and continued after he left the FBI, federal prosecutors said.

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"McGonigal requested and received at least $225,000 in cash from the individual and traveled abroad with the individual and met with foreign nationals," according to court documents which did not identify the operative by name.

"The individual later served as an FBI source in a criminal investigation involving foreign political lobbying over which McGonigal had official supervisory responsibility," prosecutors said. "McGonigal is accused of engaging in other conduct in his official capacity as an FBI Special Agent in Charge that he believed would benefit the (source) financially."

Prosecutors asserted that McGonigal concealed from the FBI the nature of his relationship with the former security officer and businessperson who had ongoing financial interests in foreign countries and involving foreign governments.

McGonigal's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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In this file photo taken on July 2, 2015, Russian metals magnate Oleg Deripaska attends Independence Day celebrations at Spaso House, the residence of the American Ambassador, in Moscow, Russia.
In this file photo taken on July 2, 2015, Russian metals magnate Oleg Deripaska attends Independence Day celebrations at Spaso House, the residence of the American Ambassador, in Moscow, Russia.

In the case involving Deripaska, the former FBI official is charged with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and money laundering.

McGonigal, who retired from the bureau in 2018, was arrested Saturday in connecttion with both cases, along with Sergey Shestakov, a former Russian diplomat.

McGonigal and Shestakov are accused of initiating an investigation of a Deripaska rival last year in return for concealed payments from the oligarch.

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Working with an agent for Deripaska, McGonigal and Shestakov sought to hide Deripaska’s involvement by using shell companies and forged signatures on contract documents. The shell companies were allegedly used to send and receive payments from Deripaska, federal prosecutors said.

In September, the Justice Department announced charges against the Deripaska, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of using a web of shell companies to disguise millions of dollars in prohibited business transactions, including the $3 million sale of a California music studio in 2019.

In 2018, Deripaska was included in the Treasury Department enforcement notice as having been "investigated for money laundering, and ... accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering."

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While serving as an FBI official, federal prosecutors said, McGonigal had access to then-classified information that led to Treasury's 2018 sanctions against Deripaska.

A year later, McGonigal and Shestakov worked for Deripaska in an unsuccessful bid to have the U.S. sanctions against Deripaska lifted, officials said.

When FBI agents questioned Shestakov in November 2021 about the nature of the work with Deripaska’s agent, "Shestakov made false statements in a recorded interview," federal prosecutors said.

The charges against the former official deal an extraordinary blow to the agency and its New York operation, which handles some of the most sensitive intelligence investigations in the bureau.

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In his role as the office's intelligence chief, McGonigal would have had access to a wide range of classified material, including the counterintelligence work related to Russia where Deripaska had been on the FBI's radar for years.

The charges also provide additional fodder for Republican lawmakers who have vowed to examine the operations of the FBI as the lead agency in the ongoing Justice Department investigations involving former President Donald Trump.

A measure of the seriousness of allegations is the decision by prosecutors to bring charges against the former official in two different federal jurisdictions.

The Deripaska-related case was filed in Manhattan's Southern District of New York. While the second indictment was brought in Washington, D.C.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ex-FBI official Charles McGonigal, tied to Russian Deripaska, arrested