According to federal prosecutors, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York office laundered money, violated sanctions against Russia while working with a Russian oligarch, and took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foreign national and former foreign intelligence official while still working for the FBI.
Charles McGonigal, 55, was arrested on Saturday after arriving in New York from the Middle East at JFK airport.
According to a case filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., McGonigal took $225,000 in cash from an individual with business interests in Europe who was an employee of a foreign intelligence service while serving as Special Agent in Charge of FBI counterintelligence efforts in the New York office.
McGonigal allegedly hid his relationship with this former foreign security officer from the FBI from August 2017 until his retirement in September 2018. He allegedly asked for and received cash from the individual and travelled abroad with him.
“In exchange for personal gain and at the expense of our national security, Mr. McGonigal betrayed his solemn oath to the United States,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway.
According to federal prosecutors in New York, after retiring from the FBI in 2018, McGonigal collaborated with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Deripaska associate Sergey Shestakov, and a third person to investigate a rival Russian oligarch in exchange for payments from Deripaska.
Prosecutors claim that McGonigal, Shestakov, and a third person attempted to conceal Deripaska’s involvement by using shell companies, forged signatures, and other methods.
“As alleged, Charles McGonigal, a former high-level FBI official, and Sergey Shestakov, a Court interpreter, violated US sanctions by agreeing to provide services to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams. They had previously collaborated with Deripaska to have his sanctions lifted, and as public servants, they should have known better.”
“The FBI is committed to the enforcement of economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, particularly against hostile activities of a foreign government and its actors,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll. Russian oligarchs, such as Oleg Deripaska, wield global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are linked to bribery, extortion, and violence.”
McGonigal pleaded not guilty to the New York charges on Monday afternoon and was released on $500,000 bond.
“Charlie served the United States effectively for decades,” McGonigal’s attorney Seth DuCharme said before his plea. We are eager to see the evidence.”
The Treasury Department sanctioned Deripaska for “acting or purporting to act on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation and for operating in the Russian Federation economy’s energy sector,” according to the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors in New York charged Deripaska with violating sanctions in 2022.
Given McGonigal’s ties to the FBI’s Washington and New York field offices, the Los Angeles field office led the two-year investigation, according to three senior law enforcement officials. The decision to relocate the investigation to Los Angeles was made to avoid any conflicts of interest or competing interests among agents who may have known McGonigal.
In a statement issued Monday, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that the bureau was committed to holding anyone who broke the law accountable, including its own employees.
“We maintain the trust and confidence of the American people through our work—showing, when all the facts come out, that we stuck to the process and treated everyone equally, even when it is one of our own,” Wray explained. “The FBI will go to great lengths to investigate and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law, including FBI employees.”
According to public records, McGonigal’s career included a stop as a section chief coordinating the FBI’s cyber and counterintelligence programmes at the secretive Intelligence Technology and Data Division (ITADD) in Chantilly, Virginia, as well as his position in New York.
McGonigal was named special agent in charge of the New York Field Office’s Counterintelligence Division in 2016, after serving as section chief of the FBI’s Cyber-Counterintelligence Coordination Section at headquarters.
McGonigal joined the FBI in 1996 and was initially assigned to the New York Field Office, where he worked on Russian foreign intelligence and organised crime.
During his time in New York, he worked on the TWA Flight 800 investigation, was assigned to the task force investigating scientist Wen Ho Lee, investigated the 1998 terrorist bombings of the United States embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and investigated the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.