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Ex-FBI Counterintelligence Chief Sentenced For Oligarch Payments

Charles McGonigal spent more than two decades as an FBI agent working on some of the most important national security and terrorism cases, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and ended up as the bureau’s chief spy hunter in New York City. He has since taken a fall, pleading guilty to felonies in two separate cases, including violating U.S. sanctions by accepting secret payments from a Russian oligarch, a crime for which he was sentenced on Thursday to more than four years in prison, the Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. District Judge Jennifer Rearden said McGonigal “made profoundly important contributions to our government” but called his misconduct very serious with national-security implications. The sentencing underscored the precipitous fall from grace for the former counterintelligence chief, who once had access to sensitive information and oversaw investigations into spies and U.S. citizens suspected of working on behalf of foreign governments. McGonigal has lost lucrative private-sector gigs and the respect of many former agents.


McGonigal was charged in January with taking money from sanctioned Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska to dig up dirt on a rival oligarch. He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count earlier this year. Federal prosecutors, who asked for a sentence of five years in prison, said McGonigal exploited one of the pre-eminent counterintelligence posts in the world to cultivate relationships that he could use when he left the FBI to do security consulting. While in the FBI, he allegedly had an agent chauffeur a woman who said she was his girlfriend and improperly using his FBI credentials and parking placard after he left the bureau. Prosecutor Hagan Scotten acknowledged McGonigal’s public service at the sentencing but said, “when he abused that position, the good works lost their value.” DOJ charged McGonigal in a separate case in Washington, D.C., with concealing his relationship with a former employee of an Albanian intelligence agency. Prosecutors alleged McGonigal received more than $225,000 from that person and hid aspects of their relationship, creating a conflict of interest with his FBI duties. He pleaded guilty in that case and is set to be sentenced Feb. 16.


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