Former FBI Agent May Soon Plead Guilty in Russia Sanctions Case
Former FBI agent Charles McGonigal arrives at Manhattan Federal Court in New York, on February 9, 2023.
(Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)

Former top FBI agent Charles McGonigal appears to be on the cusp of pleading guilty to charges over him allegedly working for a sanctioned Russian oligarch.

A judge’s order issued on Monday said McGonigal, a retired special agent who led the New York FBI Counterintelligence Division, “may wish to enter a change of plea.” The order scheduled a “plea proceeding” in New York next week.

McGonigal, who was 54 at the time of his arrest in January, previously had pleaded not guilty to charges in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., and was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond. If found guilty, McGonigal could face decades in prison.

The Department of Justice unveiled a New York-based indictment charging McGonigal and Soviet/Russian diplomat-turned-court interpreter Sergey Shestako with violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and with conspiring to commit money laundering and money laundering.

Specifically, the pair were accused of violating U.S. sanctions “by agreeing to provide services to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement in January. “They both previously worked with Deripaska to attempt to have his sanctions removed, and, as public servants, they should have known better. This Office will continue to prosecute those who violate U.S. sanctions enacted in response to Russian belligerence in Ukraine in order to line their own pockets.”

In D.C., McGonigal was charged for allegedly concealing $225,000 in cash from someone who had served as an Albanian intelligence operative who became an FBI informant.

“Covering up your contacts with foreign nationals and hiding your personal financial relationships is a gateway to corruption,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said at the time. “The FBI should be commended for handling the delicate and difficult task of investigating a former executive. This investigation demonstrates their commitment to act as an impartial enforcer of the law. The FBI and the Department will guard the best interests of the United States and hold to account those who make false statements and try to deceive the Bureau.”

Although McGonigal’s legal team has yet to comment on the judge’s order, his attorney, Seth DuCharme, said in a recent status call in the D.C. matter that there was a “decent chance the case is going to be resolved” without having to go to trial, according to CNN.

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