Crime and Courts

Retired FBI Counterintelligence Official Arrested For Alleged Money Laundering and Work With Russian Oligarch

A Russian interpreter is also accused in the indictment.

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A retired top official in the FBI's New York office was arrested over the weekend on charges related to money laundering and violating sanctions on Russia, three senior law enforcement officials said Monday.

Charles McGonigal, a 54-year-old who ran counterintelligence out of the agency's field office in Manhattan, was apprehended at JFK Airport on Saturday after returning on a flight from the Mideast, the officials said.

He was named in a five-count federal indictment charging him with violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams.

Williams jointly announced Monday's unsealing of the indictment with Michael Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office.

Also named in the court documents: Sergey Shestakov, a Russian court and government interpreter. In addition to the IEEPA-related charges, Shestakov is also accused of lying to the FBI.

Both men are expected to appear in Manhattan federal court later Monday.

McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs, including Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska, according to the U.S. Treasury, was sanctioned the year McGonigal retired for acting or purporting to act on behalf of a senior Russian government official and for operating in the energy sector of the Russian economy.

According to the indictment, McConigal and Shestakov, an ex-Soviet and Russian diplomat who later became a U.S. citizen and a Russian court and government interpreter, conspired in 2021 to provide services to Deripaska in violation of those sanctions imposed on him three years earlier. They allegedly investigated a rival Russian oligarch in return for payments from Deripaska and attempted to conceal Deripaska's involvement via shell companies and other means.

The pair also allegedly campaigned unsuccessfully in 2019 to have the sanctions against Deripaska removed. Read the full indictment here.

Information on a possible attorney for McGonigal wasn't immediately available, nor were details on a lawyer for Shestakov, 69, known. McGonigal pleaded not guilty and was released on $500,000 bond. He will be able to travel freely within the U.S., but will need permission to travel outside the country for business.

The two men each face four counts carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Shestakov's false statement charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

"As alleged, Charles McGonigal, a former high-level FBI official, and Sergey Shestakov, a Court interpreter, violated U.S. sanctions by agreeing to provide services to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch," Williams said in a statement. "They both previously worked with Deripaska to attempt to have his sanctions removed, and, as public servants, they should have known better." 

"The FBI is committed to the enforcement of economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, especially against hostile activities of a foreign government and its actors," Driscoll added. "There are no exceptions for anyone, including a former FBI official like Mr. McGonigal. Supporting a designated threat to the United States and our allies is a crime the FBI will continue to pursue aggressively."

In a statement, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the bureau "will go to great lengths to investigate and hold accountable anyone who violates the law, including when the individual is an FBI employee. We hold ourselves to the highest standard, and our focus will remain on our mission and on doing the right thing, in the right way, every time."

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