A South Florida businessman accused of secretly working with clients of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney to funnel illegal foreign cash to U.S. political campaigns pleaded not guilty to a felony conspiracy charge Thursday during a brief court appearance in federal court in Manhattan.
David Correia, 44, denied allegations that he and three associates took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foreign investor with “Russian roots” and doled it out to state and federal candidates and political committees.
Andrey Kukushkin, 46, also pleaded not guilty to one conspiracy charge.
During the hearing, federal prosecutors said they had reams of documents to help prove their case.
“We have approximately 10 search warrant applications for emails and other electronic communication ... and financial records for over 50 bank accounts,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos said.
Correia, from Palm Beach Gardens, and Kukushkin, from California, were charged last week in the Southern District of New York along with Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas in a grand jury indictment alleging that the four men conspired to purchase political influence by contributing illegal money to politicians running for office in Washington and around the country.
The case has received national attention due to the relationship between Fruman, Parnas and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has relied on the Eastern European businessmen to help investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine. Fruman and Parnas, both South Florida residents, have been subpoenaed by three House committees leading an impeachment investigation into Trump’s efforts to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine.
Correia, who co-founded a Boca Raton business with Parnas called Fraud Guarantee, is accused of helping Fruman and Parnas obscure the foreign source of their campaign money by funneling it through other individuals and a Delaware corporation called Global Energy Producers. Kukushkin allegedly helped the men pursue a marijuana license in Nevada and other states.
Wearing dark blazers, the two men entered the courtroom in Manhattan with their lawyers shortly before their arraignment was set to begin at 3:30 p.m.
Fruman, Kukushkin and Parnas were arrested Oct. 10. Correia was arrested Wednesday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he surrendered after returning from another country. Fruman and Parnas are set to be arraigned Wednesday in New York.
According to The New York Times, defense attorney Jeffrey Marcus said during a brief appearance in court Wednesday that Correia was traveling in the Middle East when the indictment against him was unsealed. Correia was released Wednesday on $250,000 bail, with his travel restricted to New York, South Florida and, with permission, Massachusetts.
He is to have no contact with Parnas or Fruman outside of the presence of their attorneys.
Kukushkin, a marijuana businessman in California where recreational weed is legal, was arrested in San Francisco last week and released on $1 million bail after surrendering his passports.
Prosecutors say Kukushkin and Correia met last year in Las Vegas with Fruman, Parnas and the foreign investor to plot out a series of political contributions in pursuit of marijuana business in Nevada and other states.
Florida is not mentioned in the indictment, but Fruman and Parnas were seeking to invest in one of the state’s marijuana licenses, and they gave $50,000 to the political committee of Gov. Ron DeSantis in June of 2018 when he was a congressman running in the Republican gubernatorial primary. DeSantis returned the money last week.
John Dowd, an attorney representing Fruman and Parnas before Congress, declined to comment.
Miami Herald reporter David Smiley reported from Miami. Kelsey Neubauer reported from New York.