Businessman Gets Softer Sentence in Cannabis Conspiracy Case

U.S. Courthouse, Manhattan.
U.S. Courthouse, Manhattan.
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NEW YORK (AP) — A Ukraine-born businessman was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison for his conviction in a conspiracy that enabled a Russian tycoon to make illegal donations to U.S. political candidates with help from two associates of Rudy Giuliani.

Andrey Kukushkin, 49, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by Judge J. Paul Oetken, who said Kukushkin deserved leniency from federal sentencing guidelines that recommended he spend four to five years behind bars.

The judge cited the war in Ukraine and the “terrible emotional difficulties” resulting from it, along with unusual personal circumstances for Kukushkin, including severe medical issues facing Kukushkin's parents.

He also fined Kukushkin $10,000 for his conviction on charges of conspiring to make illegal foreign contributions and aiding and abetting.

Prior to the sentence being revealed, Kukushkin, wiping away tears, portrayed himself as a victim of bad decisions by others, telling the judge he had made the “colossal mistake of trusting people.”

Kukushkin, who moved to the U.S. in the 1990s, was convicted at a fall trial by a jury that also convicted Lev Parnas, who awaits sentencing.

Parnas and Igor Fruman, who pleaded guilty to a single charge prior to trial and was sentenced to a year in prison, aided Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden’s son during Biden’s campaign for president.

Giuliani is under criminal investigation as authorities decide whether his interactions with Ukraine officials required him to register as a foreign agent, but he wasn’t alleged to have been involved in illegal campaign contributions and wasn’t part of the trial of Kukushkin and Parnas.

On Monday, prosecutors revealed that the Russian tycoon — Andrey Muraviev — was secretly indicted in the case in 2020, though he was believed to be residing in Russia.

An indictment said Muraviev conspired with the other men to funnel $1 million of his fortune toward U.S. political candidates who might support their efforts to acquire U.S. retail cannabis and marijuana licenses.

Authorities said Parnas and Fruman pocketed some of the money, using it instead for personal expenses, while also making donations primarily to Republicans in Nevada, Florida and other states.

Kukushkin’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, asked that his client be spared from prison, saying he was different from others charged in the case because he was not accused of multiple frauds and did not lie to financial institutions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aline Flodr had argued for a sentence of at least four years in prison, saying others who might commit a similar crime need to know that it would be taken seriously.

She said members of the American public were “the true victims.”

The case, she said, demonstrated that “all the things they fear are happening to the American political system are indeed happening.”

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