A former FBI agent who was initially charged with working for a sanctioned Russian oligarch is reportedly contemplating changing his plea to guilty for charges related to evading U.S. sanctions and money laundering. The decision comes after the ex-agent, Charles McGonigal, initially pleaded not guilty to several charges, including conspiring to violate sanctions and conspiring to commit money laundering.
According to a brief order filed on Monday, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Rearden in Manhattan has scheduled a change of plea hearing for August 15. McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, previously held the position of the former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York and played a pivotal role in the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
The charges against McGonigal are rooted in his alleged involvement with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was under U.S. sanctions. Prosecutors arrested McGonigal in January, accusing him of receiving undisclosed payments from Deripaska in exchange for investigating a rival oligarch and attempting, albeit unsuccessfully, to lift U.S. sanctions on Deripaska in 2019. McGonigal was accused of not disclosing these connections and engaging in activities that conflicted with his official duties.
McGonigal’s case emerged during a time when U.S. authorities were intensifying their efforts to enforce sanctions on Russian officials and their associates due to ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Deripaska was one of the individuals blacklisted by the U.S. in 2018 for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, an allegation both he and the Kremlin denied.
Reportedly, the former FBI official played a significant role in the investigation into potential links between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia. During his tenure, McGonigal oversaw the probe on Russian election interference following revelations that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had hinted at knowledge of Russian information on Hillary Clinton.
As the legal proceedings continue, McGonigal’s potential change in plea underscores the intricate nature of his case and its implications for the broader context of the Trump-Russia investigation.