Top FBI spy hunter charged with sanction violations, money laundering

Charles F. McGonigal, 54, a former FBI Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office, has been arrested.

The FBI’s former top spy hunter in New York was arrested Monday and charged with violating U.S. sanctions on Russia, money laundering, and taking secret cash payments of more than $225,000 while overseeing highly sensitive cases.

Charles McGonigal, 54, who retired from the FBI in September 2018, was indicted in federal court in Manhattan on five counts stemming from his alleged ties to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

McGonigal was the top counterintelligence official at the FBI’s New York field office prior to his retirement and authorities say he broke the law by trying to get Deripaska removed from a U.S. sanctions list — accusations that shocked the cloistered world of his fellow high-ranking intelligence officials.

Sergey Shestakov, a former Russian diplomat who became a U.S. citizen and worked as an interpreter for federal courts and prosecutors, was charged with making material misstatements to the FBI in the scheme.

Federal prosecutors allege the pair worked for Deripaska to investigate an unnamed rival Russian oligarch in 2021 in violation of U.S. sanctions and worked to conceal their activity. Shestakov faces an additional charge of lying to FBI investigators.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams and Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of the five-count indictment.

A second indictment, filed in Washington, accused McGonigal of hiding payments totaling $225,000 that he allegedly received from a New Jersey man employed decades ago by an Albanian intelligence agency. The indictment also accused him of acting to advance that person’s interests.

McGonigal allegedly accepted $225,000 in cash from the New Jersey man, who had business interests in Europe and who had been an employee of a foreign intelligence service, while McGonigal was serving as Special Agent in Charge of FBI counterintelligence efforts in the New York Office.

According to that nine-count indictment, from August 2017 and continuing through and beyond his retirement in September 2018, McGonigal concealed from the FBI the nature of his relationship with a former foreign security officer and businessperson who had ongoing business interests in foreign countries and before foreign governments.

Specifically, McGonigal requested and received at least $225,000 in cash from the individual and traveled abroad with the individual, and met with foreign nationals.

The individual later served as an FBI source in a criminal investigation involving foreign political lobbying over which McGonigal had official supervisory responsibility.

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 businessperson financially.

McGonigal is charged in Washington, DC, with concealing material facts and with six counts of making false statements, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment. McGonigal is also charged with two counts of falsification of records and documents, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia, Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office and Assistant Director in Charge David Sundberg of the FBI Washington Field Office made that announcement.

McGonigal’s alleged crimes may undercut Justice Department efforts to ramp up economic sanctions on wealthy Russians after last year’s invasion of Ukraine.

The twin indictments are also a black eye for the FBI, alleging that one of its most senior and trusted intelligence officials accepted large sums of money and undermined the bureau’s overall intelligence-gathering mission.

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