By AARON KATERSKY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — David Correia, a Florida businessman and one-time golf pro, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to dupe investors in a company he founded with Lev Parnas, a former associate of President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Correia and Parnas tried to lure potential investors to Fraud Guarantee, the firm for which Parnas unsuccessfully attempted to hire Giuliani as a pitchman to attract investors and business, according to federal prosecutors in Manhattan who brought the case.
“I agreed with another person to give potential investors wrong information,” Correia said in a brief statement.
At least seven victims invested a total of more than $2 million in Fraud Guarantee because, they said, Correia and Parnas misled them about the financial arrangements.
“The majority of investor funds were withdrawn as cash and were spent on personal expenditures such as Mr. Parnas’ rent,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind said.
The defense did not dispute what became of the money but characterized Parnas as the primary recipient.
“Mr. Correia got very little of that money,” defense attorney Bill Harrington said.
Correia, 45, also pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in connection with an illegal $325,000 donation to a PAC supporting Trump’s candidacy that allegedly was primarily arranged by Parnas and Igor Fruman.
Prosecutors say the donation was made through Global Energy Producers, a company Correia was helping Parnas and Fruman launch. At the time of the donation GEP had no operations or bank account, yet Correia told the FEC the company was “funded with substantial bona fide capital investment,” Zolkind said.
“The statements that were false, were they important, would have been material to the FEC?” Judge Paul Oetken asked.
“I was under the impression everything in that affidavit was important to the FEC,” Correia replied.
Correia, the first defendant to plead guilty among four charged last October with illegal campaign contributions, faces a maximum 25 years in prison, but the plea agreement called for a sentence of between 33 and 41 months. Correia, Parnas, Furman and Andrey Kakushkin, a Ukrainian-born business associate of Correia’s, were indicted last October on charges that they allegedly funneled $1-2 million from a Russian donor into the U.S. political system between June 2018 and April 2019.
Correia is due to be sentenced Feb. 8. Parnas, Furman and Kakushkin have entered not guilty pleas and are scheduled for trial next March.
Correia’s plea deal does not include a provision that requires him to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
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