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Former FBI spy hunter gets prison time for giving information to Russian oligarch

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A former FBI special agent who led a counterintelligence division was sentenced to more than four years in prison on Thursday for providing information to a Russian oligarch, in violation of US sanctions.

Charles McGonigal, 55, is one of the highest-ranking FBI officials to ever be convicted of a crime. He spent 22 years at the FBI before retiring in September 2018, leading investigations into the 2010 release of state department classified cables by WikiLeaks, and a hunt for a suspected Chinese spy working as a mole in the CIA.

But in 2021, after he had retired, McGonigal supplied information to the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to help him sink a business rival. Deripaska had been placed on a US sanctions list in 2018, and was attempting to gather information to get a competitor placed on the sanctions list as well.

McGonigal received a payment of $17,500 for doing so, laundered from a Russian bank to Cyprus to a business bank account in New Jersey and then to McGonigal’s private account.

McGonigal was arrested in January 2023 and indicted on nine charges. In August, he pleaded guilty to one charge to avoid the other eight – namely, conspiring to violate US sanctions and laundering payments.

On Thursday he was sentenced to 50 months in prison and fined $40,000. The judge for the southern district of New York, Jennifer H Rearden, said her sentence was meant to balance McGonigal’s 22 years of FBI service with the “extremely serious” nature of his crimes, which she said imperiled national security.

“Charles McGonigal violated the trust his country placed in him by using his high-level position at the FBI to prepare for his future in business. Once he left public service, he jeopardized our national security by providing services to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian tycoon who acts as Vladimir Putin’s agent,” said Damian Williams, a US attorney, in a statement on the sentencing.

“Today’s sentence is a reminder that anyone who violates United States sanctions – particularly those in whom this country has placed its trust – will pay a heavy penalty.”

McGonigal also faces a second sentencing in Washington DC early next year, after he also pleaded guilty to hiding $225,000 in payments from a former Albanian intelligence officer.

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