The same associates of Rudolph Giuliani who were arrested on October 10 for operating a pro-Trump Super PAC and conspiring to have the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine fired also had a scheme to obtain marijuana licenses in Nevada and New York with plans to set up a multi-state operation.
The bombshell indictment of the four men - Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin - by the Southern District of New York includes a section, "The Former National Donor Scheme," that outlines their activities in Nevada. From June 2018 through April 2019, "they conspired to make political donations... to politicians and candidates for federal and state office to gain influence with candidates as to policies that would benefit a future business venture."
The business venture was "retail marijuana licenses" in Nevada and the candidates were Adam Laxalt, who was running for governor, and Wes Duncan, who was running for attorney general, both as Republicans. They each received $10,000 from Fruman, who funneled the money from an unnamed Russian national. Both candidates lost in close races.
However, since the deadline for license applications (September 1) had passed, they decided to influence the election so that the candidates would "greenlight" their efforts if they won by changing the licensing rules.
The defendants attempted to influence politicians in Nevada in order to "greenlight" their efforts to obtain retail marijuana licenses.
In addition, the Russian national wired $1 million in two payments to Fruman in September and October to fund the business venture. According to the indictment, the defendants "continued to meet into the spring of 2019, (but) the business venture did not come to fruition." Kukushkin and Correia were principally involved in the Nevada scheme.
Nevada is one of 11 states in the U.S. with legal recreational marijuana. Efforts to obtain licenses in New York, which is a legal medical marijuana state, are not discussed in the indictment.
The ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was fired by President Trump in May after “Parnas met with Congressman-1 and sought Congressman-1’s assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.” That Congressman has been identified at Texas Rep. Peter Sessions, who received a $20,000 contribution from the America First Action PAC in exchange for him sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for Yovanovitch's ouster. The ambassador was said to be anti-Trump. Sessions lost his seat in Congress in November.
The defendants are charged with two counts of conspiracy and one each of making false statements to the Federal Elections Commission and falsification of records. Fruman and Parnas, both American citizens who were born in Russia and live in Florida, were arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia as they tried to leave the country. They were each detained on $1 million bonds. Kukushkin was nabbed in San Franciso and Correia was at large.
On October 16, Correia "was taken into custody by the FBI at JFK earlier this morning," according to the U.S. attorney’s office spokesperson Nicholas Biase. Fruman was since released on the bond, but Parnas remains in jail. Kukushkin was released as well on the $1 million bond put up by family members after his arrest.
Read the indictment here.
Kukushkin's California Connection
Ukrainian-born Andrey Kukushkin is not new to the cannabis industry. He's a partner with Garib Karapetyan in a number of Sacramento pot shops. According to the Sacramento Bee, Karapetyan has permits for eight stores: Alternative Medical Center, CC101, Cloud 9, Doctors Orders, Golden Health & Wellness, House of Organics, Safe Accessible Solutions and Twelve Hour Care (THC). Kukuskin is the CFO of THC. His name has been on the permit since 2017.
Karapetyan donated $3,000 to Mayor Darrell Steinberg's campaign in 2016. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Mayor is immediately returning these 2016 political contributions by donating them to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento,” says Steinberg's communications director Mary Lynne Vellinga.
The Russian national who provided seed money for the Nevada operation as well as the 2018 campaign donations is most likely Andrey Muraviev, whose investment fund Parus Capital Limited has bankrolled Kukushkin's forays into the cannabis industry.
Kukushkin, who moved to California in 1991, also has done business in San Francisco. His company Venture Rebel managed the MedThrive dispensary from 2015-2018 until they had a falling out. Another of his companies Oasis Venture tried to buy a 92-acre ranch in Livermore with the plan to convert it to a grow facility, but that fell through as well.