Ex-FBI leader involved in Trump-Russia probe may change plea in charges for working with Russian oligarch

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A former FBI agent accused by U.S. prosecutors of working for a sanctioned Russian oligarch may now plead guilty to evading U.S. sanctions and money laundering after initially entering a not guilty plea.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Rearden in Manhattan wrote in a brief order filed Monday that a change of plea hearing has been scheduled for August 15 for 54-year-old Charles McGonigal, Reuters reported. 

McGonigal, who retired in 2018, was the former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York and was involved in the probe into former President Trump’s ties to Russia.

The former FBI official previously pleaded not guilty to conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, money laundering, conspiring to commit money laundering and conspiring to violate federal law against doing business with sanctioned individuals in connection with his work for sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Prosecutors arrested McGonigal in January for allegedly receiving concealed payments from Deripaska, the founder of Russian aluminum company Rusal, in exchange for investigating a rival oligarch and unsuccessfully pushing to lift U.S. sanctions on Deripaska in 2019. He has been free on a $500,000 bond since his arrest.

McGonigal was legally required to report his contact with foreign officials to the agency, but allegedly hid the ties and instead pursued business and overseas travel conflicting with his work.

The charges against McGonigal came as U.S. prosecutors increased efforts to enforce sanctions on Russian officials and monitor their alleged enablers because of Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

Deripaska was among two dozen Russian oligarchs and government officials blacklisted by the U.S. in 2018 over allegations Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Deripaska and the Kremlin have denied any meddling in the election.

McGonigal reportedly played a central role in the investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign’s connection to Russia.

While serving as chief of the cybercrimes section at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., McGonigal was reportedly one of the first bureau officials to learn former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos allegedly boasted that he knew Russians had information on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, launching the Russian election interference probe.

Reuters and Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.

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