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Ex-F.B.I. Official in Talks to Resolve Charges of Working for Oligarch

Once the F.B.I.’s top counterintelligence official in New York City, Charles F. McGonigal was charged with concealing contacts with foreign nationals.

Charles McGonigal walks outside the Federal District courthouse in Manhattan.

The arrest of Charles McGonigal shocked colleagues who had worked with him on some of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most sensitive cases in recent years.Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Michael Rothfeld

A former senior F.B.I. official is in talks to resolve criminal charges in two separate indictments, including entering a possible guilty plea as early as next week in a case involving accusations that he worked for a Russian oligarch, according to a public filing and statements by his lawyer in court.

Charles F. McGonigal, who retired in 2018 as the counterintelligence chief in the F.B.I.’s New York field office, one of the agency’s most sensitive posts, has been accused by federal prosecutors in New York of violating U.S. sanctions, money laundering and conspiracy in connection with Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch once seen as close to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

Mr. McGonigal was also charged by federal prosecutors in Washington with concealing his relationship with a businessman who paid him $225,000, as well misleading the F.B.I. about his contacts with foreign nationals and foreign travel, creating a conflict of interest with his official duties.

Mr. McGonigal pleaded not guilty to both indictments. But on Monday, the district judge overseeing his New York case, Jennifer H. Rearden, set a plea hearing for Aug. 15, saying that she had been informed that Mr. McGonigal “may wish to enter a change of plea.”

At a hearing in the Washington case on Friday, Mr. McGonigal’s lawyer, Seth D. DuCharme, told the federal judge there, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, that discussions about resolving the charges were ongoing and that he hoped to update her by the next scheduled hearing in September.

Although some of the current charges carry up to 20 years in prison, a judge could also impose a far lighter sentence.

Mr. DuCharme declined to comment on either case. Spokespeople for the U.S. attorney’s offices in New York and Washington also declined to comment.

Judge Rearden’s order in New York and the discussions in Washington were reported earlier by CNN. Mr. McGonigal’s co-defendant in the New York case, Sergey Shestakov, has also pleaded not guilty to sanctions violations and money laundering in connection with Mr. Deripaska, as well as making false statements to the F.B.I. (Mr. McGonigal does not face that last charge.) There has been no public indication that Mr. Shestakov is about to change his plea; his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The arrest in January of Mr. McGonigal, 55, reverberated through the F.B.I., shocking colleagues who had worked with him over his 22-year career on some of the bureau’s most sensitive cases, including an investigation into the information breach that led to the disappearance, imprisonment or execution of C.I.A. informants in China.

The accusations also raised questions about what agency secrets Mr. McGonigal might have compromised. But a more than three-year F.B.I. investigation produced no evidence that he had done so, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. That a plea agreement may be reached relatively quickly also suggests that Mr. McGonigal’s former colleagues at the F.B.I., and Justice Department prosecutors, have concluded his behavior stopped at corruption and did not extend to espionage.

The New York indictment accused Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov of working for Mr. Deripaska, a wealthy Russian metals magnate. Mr. Shestakov, 69, is a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who lived in the U.S. and worked after his retirement as an interpreter in U.S. courts in New York.

Federal prosecutors suggested that while still at the F.B.I., Mr. McGonigal attempted to build a relationship with an aide to Mr. Deripaska by arranging for the aide’s daughter to do an internship with the New York City Police Department. (A senior police official told The New York Times that the woman was given a “V.I.P.-type” tour over several days that included spending time with specialized Police Department units, including the harbor patrol and mounted units, but it was not an internship.)

In April 2018, Mr. Deripaska was placed on a sanctions list by the U.S. State Department, which cited his connections to the Kremlin and Russia’s interference in the presidential election of 2016. Mr. McGonigal reviewed the proposed list of people to be sanctioned, including Mr. Deripaska, before it was finalized, prosecutors said.

In 2019, after Mr. McGonigal’s retirement, he and Mr. Shestakov connected Mr. Deripaska to a law firm for aid in getting the sanctions lifted, federal prosecutors in New York said. Mr. McGonigal met with Mr. Deripaska and others in London and Vienna and was paid $25,000 a month through the law firm as a consultant and an investigator until about March 2020, the indictment says.

Then, in the spring of 2021, Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov negotiated an agreement with Mr. Deripaska’s aide to investigate a rival oligarch, for which they were paid more than $200,000, according to the indictment. The criminal charges in the indictment appear to relate primarily to this arrangement, which ended, prosecutors said, when the men’s devices were seized by the F.B.I. in November 2021.

Adam Goldman and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Michael Rothfeld is an investigative reporter on the Metro desk and co-author of the book “The Fixers.” He was part of a team at The Wall Street Journal that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for stories about hush money deals made on behalf of Donald Trump and a federal investigation of the president’s personal lawyer. More about Michael Rothfeld

A version of this article appears in print on  , Section A, Page 13 of the New York edition with the headline: Ex-F.B.I. Official Accused of Aiding Oligarch Is in Talks to Resolve Charges. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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