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Giuliani Associate’s Creditor Seeks Cash From Pro-Trump PAC

Christian Berthelsen

(Bloomberg) -- A family trust that lent money to an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani is trying to recover more than $500,000 from the defendant and a political action committee tied to President Donald Trump to which he contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lev Parnas, who is accused of using donations to push for Marie Yovanovitch to be recalled as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, owes the Pues Family Trust $510,000, court records show.

The trust filed a claim against Parnas in 2011 for $350,000 after he failed to repay a loan. In 2016, a judge in New York granted it the larger award, which reflects interest. The trust registered the judgment in a Florida court this year to pursue the matter where Parnas lives.

A filing on Monday in which the trust also names the political action committee, America First, as a source of funds for repayment is separate from the criminal charges against Parnas. But it comes as House Democrats enter their second week of public impeachment hearings, in which the sudden recall of Yovanovitch plays a central role.

On Wednesday morning, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that Giuliani, working at the president’s direction, conditioned a White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Zelenskiy’s announcing an investigation to benefit Trump politically.

Parnas and a co-defendant, Igor Fruman, have been indicted in New York on allegations that they hid the source of campaign donations, including $325,000 given in 2018 to America First, which campaigns for causes advocated by Trump. Parnas is accused of using donations to lobby a congressman at the time, Pete Sessions of Texas, for the ouster of Yovanovitch. Trump recalled her in May.

Parnas’s lawyer Edward MacMahon and a spokeswoman for America First didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the trust’s civil filing. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty in the criminal case.

Read More: Giuliani Ukraine Allies Arrested With One-Way Flight Tickets

The filing begins to explain a question that has hovered over the case since Parnas and Fruman were arrested last month as they sought to leave the U.S. with one-way plane tickets: where they got the money they used for donations that opened the door to the president’s inner circle.

The money “should have been used to satisfy the judgment, but was used for improper purposes,” the filing said. “The money apparently was used to curry favor with the country’s political elite in the GOP, a purely personal goal.”

The documents filed in Florida allege that the money for the contribution came from a shell company called Aaron Investments that Parnas used to hide assets and avoid creditors. Lawyers for the trust asked a judge to enter a judgment against America First, Parnas and the shell companies.

Read More: Giuliani Faces U.S. Probe on Campaign Finance, Lobbying Breaches

Aaron Investments received the money from a private lending transaction, according to prosecutors. The money Parnas borrowed from the trust isn’t alleged to be the money used to make the donation, but the trust argues that the $325,000 America First received should be among the funds made available to satisfy the $510,000 judgment.

When Parnas and Fruman were charged last month, America First said it had placed the money in a segregated account and left it untouched after questions were raised about it in a Federal Election Commission complaint and related litigation last year.

In the criminal case, Parnas and Fruman have been allowed to remain free on bail under house arrest pending trial.

The civil case is Pues Family Trust vs. Parnas Holdings Inc., 19-mc-80024, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).

(Updates with Sondland’s testimony in fifth paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the first name of Igor Fruman.)

--With assistance from Andrew Harris.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christian Berthelsen in New York at cberthelsen1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey

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