Newly available wire transfer records, made public through an unrelated civil action in Florida, add intriguing new details to an already wild story involving a shady corporation with foreign ties that illegally laundered money to a pro-Trump super PAC.
Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a supplement to a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint based on those new records, which also establish that the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action faces legal liability.
First the backstory.
Last year, America First Action reported receiving $325,000 from Global Energy Producers LLC (GEP), a company formed weeks prior to the donation. The new company did not even have a website. The available facts did not suggest that GEP had conducted any business or generated sufficient income during its short existence to cover a $325,000 political contribution.
CLC filed a complaint last July calling for an investigation, since it appeared to be yet another example of shell corporations being used to funnel money to super PACs while evading any donor disclosure or accountability.
CLC’s complaint noted that the individuals connected to GEP, the Ukrainian-born Igor Fruman and Russian-born Lev Parnas, met personally with President Trump at a small closed-door meeting in Washington just weeks before the $325,000 contribution.
In the year since the contribution and CLC’s complaint, Fruman and Parnas have become major players in Trumpworld. According to the New York Times, the two have teamed up with President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giulani, to solicit information from Ukraine about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his ethically-questionable deals in that country. Parnas also connected Giulani with Ukraine’s top prosecutor.
But even as Parnas has leveraged his political contributions into political connections, spurned investors have kept on his trail. Parnas was recently hit with a $510,000 judgment in Florida for failing to pay back money he borrowed for a movie that was never made.
Those Florida proceedings resulted in the release of financial documents.
And those documents reveal that GEP never contributed to America First Action.
Wire transfer records show that another LLC managed by Parnas. Aaron Investments I, LLC, transferred $325,000 to America First Action on May 17, 2018. The super PAC never disclosed receiving money from Aaron Investments I, LLC—it instead attributed the contribution to GEP.
It is not clear why Parnas or Fruman asked America First Action to misattribute the contribution, nor is it clear why the super PAC went along with this scheme. But in doing so, America First Action violated the straw donor ban: it accepted a contribution from one entity, and reported it as having come from another entity.
The story doesn’t end there.
Other wire transfer records show that just two days before making the super PAC contribution, Aaron Investments I, LLC received a $1.26 million transfer from the client trust account of a Miami real estate attorney named Russell S. Jacobs (the funds in a client trust account don’t belong to the attorney: they belong to the attorney’s client.) Absent that transfer, it appears that the LLC would not have had the funds to cover the $350,000 contribution.
So the money used for the contribution appears to have come from Jacobs’ client. We don’t know who that client is--but Jacobs, the real estate attorney, specializes in working with foreign real estate buyers and advising realtors on how to avoid federal requirements aimed at disclosure of foreign buyers who use shell companies to launder money through U.S. real estate.In 2016, for example, he hosted a seminar titled “Avoid the Treasury Trap with Foreign Buyers.”
So taken together:
On May 15, 2018, a real estate attorney—whose practice involves foreign interests and shell companies—transferred $1.26 million from a client trust account to an LLC managed by Parnas.
Two days later, that LLC contributed $325,000 to America First Action via a wire transfer.
America First Action then falsely attributed that contribution to “Global Energy Producers, LLC” on its FEC reports.
America First Action violated the law by filing this false report, which has kept the public in the dark about the true sources of its support. Parnas, Fruman, or others who engineered this scheme also violated the law by laundering the contribution through LLCs.
But we still don’t know where the money actually came from. The FEC should find out.