Ex-FBI counterintelligence agent charged with working for sanctioned Russian oligarch

A former FBI agent who once headed the bureau’s counterintelligence unit in New York has been charged with taking cash from a foreign intelligence agent and for going to work for a sanctioned Russian oligarch after retiring.

Charles McGonigal, 54, is accused of violating sanctions by working to help Russian metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska investigate a rival and connect him with a law firm to try to get sanctions against him lifted, according to charges filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

In a separate case, federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., charged McGonigal with taking $225,000 while he was still working for the FBI from an Albanian intelligence agent who later served as a source in a criminal probe of foreign political lobbying.  

McGonigal retired from the FBI in 2018 after 22 years with the bureau, during which he specialized in Russian counterintelligence, organized crime investigations and counter espionage. From 2016 until he retired, he headed the counterintelligence unit of the FBI’s New York office during which he was involved in a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

McGonigal was arrested on Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport on charges of violating sanctions and money laundering, prosecutors said. An attorney for McGonigal didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan also charged a former Russian diplomat, Sergey Shestakov, 69, with working with McGonigal to aid Deripaska. Shestakov was also arrested on Saturday at his home in Connecticut. His lawyer didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Deripaska, who has long been one of Russia’s wealthiest men and enjoyed close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was placed on the U.S. sanctions list in 2018. He has been accused several times of working to evade those sanctions, using go-betweens and shell companies to continue doing business in the U.S. He has even been accused of secretly paying for his girlfriend to give birth to her children in the U.S. so they could obtain American citizenship.

McGonigal and Shestakov are accused of taking money to help Deripaska connect with a U.S. law firm in an effort to get his name taken off the sanctions list. McGonigal is also accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in payments to investigate another Russian oligarch, who is a rival of Deripaska, federal prosecutors said.

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