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Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Brad Mast to return donations from Palm Beach County businessmen arrested for campaign finance fraud

Posted at 7:28 PM, Oct 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-10 23:29:36-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Two potential witnesses in the impeachment inquiry were charged in federal court on Thursday with illegally funneling campaign money to help President Donald Trump.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both with addresses in Palm Beach County, were preparing to leave the country on one-way tickets when they were arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

"Schemes to violate federal campaign finance laws by repeatedly using straw donors and foreign money,” said Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has previously said both men helped him in his dealings with Ukraine, including encouraging the country to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

Thursday’s charges are not directly connected to the impeachment inquiry.

Federal investigators say Parnas and Fruman sought to use foreign money to gain political influence.

"The American people expect and deserve an election process that has not been corrupted by the influence of foreign interests and the public has a right to know the true source of campaign contributions,” said William Sweeney with the New York Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Records show Parnas and Fruman used wire transfers from a company connected to them, Global Energy Producers.

The business is registered to a residential address in Boca Raton.

Through Global Energy Producers, Parnas and Fruman made a $325,000 donation to a committee for President Donald Trump and a $50,000 donation to a Gov. Ron DeSantis committee.

Also, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast received a $2,500 donation from Fruman, via Protect The House, a group that supports Republicans around the country.

And Fruman gave $20,400 to Sen. Rick Scott’s campaign, according to the Sun Sentinel,

On Thursday, the governor announced he will return the contribution. A spokesperson said in an email Thursday the money given to a political action committee would be returned to the federal government.

And Brad Stewart, a spokesman for Mast, said the donation will be returned. "Brian has never met or talked to Furman and didn’t solicit the money," Stewart told WPTV.

Parnas and Fruman ducked impeachment inquiry depositions this week. House Democrats have now issued subpoenas to force them to hand over documents.

A judge decided Thursday to have their passports seized and the bond set at $1 million each.