A former FBI official is set to be sentenced for collaborating with a Russian oligarch

Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence at the FBI’s New York office, is scheduled for sentencing on Thursday afternoon. This comes after he pleaded guilty in August to a federal charge in New York related to accepting undisclosed payments from a sanctioned Russian oligarch, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his plea, McGonigal acknowledged conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He admitted to assisting Oleg Deripaska in uncovering damaging information about a rival Russian oligarch and engaging in money laundering by obscuring the source of payments for this task. McGonigal is also facing charges in a separate case in Washington, where he has pleaded guilty.

The Justice Department is pushing for a five-year prison term and a $200,000 fine in the New York case, asserting that Charles McGonigal “betrayed his country and manipulated a sanctions regime crucial to its national security.”

In a sentencing submission last week, the government argued that such a sentence would serve as a deterrent for other former national security officials contemplating “misusing their positions in service to adversarial foreign entities.”

The government further emphasized in the submission, “It is not an exaggeration to state that McGonigal himself understood the seriousness of his crimes better than anyone else.”

McGonigal’s legal team asserted that the ex-FBI official’s efforts on behalf of Deripaska to advocate for the sanctioning of another Russian oligarch were, to some extent, in harmony with U.S. interests.

His lawyers urged the federal judge overseeing the case to issue a sentence that does not involve additional time in prison.

They argued that McGonigal comprehended that the tasks he undertook were aligned with, rather than contrary to, U.S. foreign policy, as they aimed at potentially imposing sanctions on another Russian oligarch.

McGonigal’s background

McGonigal had a career spanning over two decades at the FBI, progressing through the ranks to become the agency’s counterintelligence chief in New York before retiring in 2018.

During his tenure, he played a pivotal role in major national security cases, ranging from thwarting a plot to bomb the New York City subway to addressing the release of classified documents by WikiLeaks.

In their sentencing submission last month, McGonigal’s lawyers highlighted his “truly extraordinary” service to the United States, often undertaken at considerable personal risk.

Before retiring from the FBI, the Justice Department reported that a former Russian diplomat, who later became a U.S. citizen and worked as an interpreter for courts and government offices in New York City, introduced McGonigal to an agent of Deripaska.

Prosecutors alleged that McGonigal was aware of Deripaska’s ties to a Russian intelligence agency but continued to maintain a relationship with him. A few months later, prosecutors asserted that McGonigal received a classified list identifying oligarchs close to Putin who were subject to sanctions.

Following his retirement, McGonigal reportedly met with Deripaska in London and Vienna, facilitating his connection with a law firm to aid in removing him from the U.S. sanctions list. Subsequently, he was hired by Deripaska to investigate a rival oligarch, Vladimir Potanin.

Prosecutors claimed that McGonigal enlisted a subcontractor to retrieve files about Potanin from the dark web and was in negotiations for a $3 million sale of these files when the FBI confiscated his phone in November 2021, effectively putting an end to the scheme.

In September, McGonigal entered a guilty plea in the Washington case, acknowledging that he had concealed his interactions with foreign officials and failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars received from a former employee of Albania’s intelligence agency.

Prosecutors asserted that McGonigal misled the FBI by inadequately reporting his travels and dealings with foreign nationals while still employed by the bureau. His sentencing for this case is scheduled for February 16.

Prior to his sentencing in New York, McGonigal released a statement expressing the significant repercussions he has faced due to his actions.

He acknowledged the loss of credibility within the law enforcement and security community, expressing genuine remorse for the embarrassment caused.

In a statement to the judge, McGonigal’s wife, Pamela, conveyed that her husband’s ambition led him astray, causing a loss of focus on the reality of his decision-making and actions.



Peter Ritdung Wakkias is a Nigerian blogger and programmer, known for being the CEO of and He holds a Higher National Diploma in Computer Science from Isa Mustapha Agwai 1 Polytechnic Lafia. Based in Lafia, Nasarawa State.

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