- Igor Fruman, a former associate of embattled lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pleaded guilty to soliciting foreign campaign contributions in a New York federal court Friday.
- The plea comes nearly two years after being charged with crimes that included making illegal donations to a pro-Trump political action campaign.
- Fruman and his business partner Lev Parnas, a co-defendant in the same case, had worked with Giuliani in an effort to dig up dirt about President Joe Biden in Ukraine.
- Giuliani, who has acted as Trump's personal attorney, also faces an ongoing criminal investigation.
NEW YORK — Igor Fruman, a former associate of embattled lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pleaded guilty Friday to soliciting campaign contributions from a foreign national, nearly two years after being charged with crimes that included making illegal donations to a pro-Trump political action campaign.
Fruman and his business partner Lev Parnas, a co-defendant in the same case, had worked with Giuliani in an effort to dig up damaging information about President Joe Biden in Ukraine when Biden had emerged as a leading challenger to then-President Donald Trump.
The change-of-plea hearing in Manhattan federal court came as Giuliani, who has acted as Trump's personal attorney, faces an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
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Giuliani, who denies any wrongdoing, served two terms as mayor of New York after heading that same prosecutors' office for years.
The Ukraine-born Fruman was originally charged with 10 crimes.
But in court Friday, he agreed to plead guilty only to a single count related to soliciting U.S. campaign contributions from a foreign national as part of what prosecutors said was a bid to get state-issued recreational marijuana business licenses for a cannabis venture that ultimately never got off the ground.
Fruman said the money was solicited from a foreign businessman who was interested in investing in the cannabis company that Fruman and others were pursuing.
The campaign donations were earmarked for government officials, both Republican and Democrat, in states moving to legalize marijuana.
"I deeply regret my actions and apologize to the court and the United States government for this conduct," Fruman told Judge J. Paul Oetken, after admitting that he had known such campaign donations from foreigners were illegal under American law.
Fruman's plea came in an agreement with prosecutors that led to the other charges being dropped, but he has not agreed to a deal that would compel him to cooperate with federal prosecutors in any ongoing investigation.
His sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 21, and he remains free on bond. The plea agreement stipulates that federal sentencing guidelines suggest that Fruman receive a prison term of between three years and three years and 10 months.
But Oetken is not bound by those guidelines.
Fruman's lawyer Todd Blanche declined to answer questions from reporters as he left the courthouse with Fruman in lower Manhattan after the plea hearing.
In a statement to CNBC Friday evening, Blanche said that Fruman "is not cooperating with the government and has determined that this is the fairest and best way to put the past two years of his life behind him."
"He intends to continue to work hard, as he has his entire life, and raise his family in this country that he loves," Blanche's statement said.
Parnas and a third defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, who have both pleaded not guilty, are scheduled to go on trial in the same courthouse on Oct. 12 for charges related to allegedly using straw campaign donors to obscure the source of donated money, and soliciting campaign contributions from foreigners.
A fourth defendant, David Correia, pleaded guilty last October to misleading investors in a company he had started with Parnas, a firm called Fraud Guarantee.
Both men were accused of using more than $2 million in investor money on personal expenses instead of the business.
Giuliani received hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from Fraud Guarantee.
At his guilty plea, Correia admitted lying to federal election officials about the source of a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump PAC. Instead of coming from a natural gas firm, as Correia claimed, the money actually had come from a mortgage granted to Fruman.
Correia, who likewise had no cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors, in February was sentenced to one year in prison.