On the 2018 campaign’s grip-and-grin circuit, Eastern European business hustlers Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas found new best friends inside Nevada’s Trumpian Republican Party.
Although most notoriously known these days as the stocky associates of Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani in a scheme to gin up a scandal in Ukraine involving then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, back in 2018 Fruman and Parnas were partners in a plan to open retail marijuana businesses in Nevada and elsewhere.
But they needed some friends in high places to make up for lost time in a lucrative and rapidly expanding industry.
Their silly smiles and ever-ready thumbs-up for the camera faded in October 2019 when Fruman, Parnas, and two other men were indicted on federal charges that included laundering campaign contributions the previous year to Nevada GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt and his friend, attorney general candidate Wes Duncan.
Laxalt and Duncan, who lost competitive races, weren’t criminally implicated. They even denied knowledge of the business interests of Fruman and Parnas, in partnership with David Correia and pot entrepreneur Andrey Kukushkin, to use funds provided by an unnamed Russian national to make up to $2 million in political contributions in a multi-state marijuana licensing strategy that included Nevada.
Fruman and Parnas were tied to the virtual shell company Global Energy Producers LLC, the same company that in May 2018 made a $325,000 contribution to the pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action. According to the indictment, that unnamed Russian national stated that the group’s Nevada business plan called for what appears to have been $500,000 in total contributions, “in order to obtain green light for licensing.”
In materials provided by the Department of Justice, that portion of the case is titled “The Foreign Donor Scheme.” Which, in itself, paints a less than flattering picture.
But the actual