Former top FBI official arrested for taking money for clandestine work

Charles McGonigal, a former top FBI official in New York, was apprehended on Saturday afternoon upon his return from Sri Lanka, according to law enforcement.

Upon his retirement from being the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI’s New York Field Office in 2018, McGonigal is now being held in custody in association with his ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian tycoon who has been subject to US sanctions and has been indicted for violating them.

McGonigal, 54, proclaimed his innocence to the four charges outlined in the indictment presented on Monday in Manhattan court. The judge subsequently granted his release on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond, with certain travel limits and restrictions on communication with people affiliated with the case.

He and a special interpreter, Sergey Shestakov, were accused of trying to help Deripaska escape the sanctions list, making McGonigal one of the highest ranking former agent to ever be charged with criminal behavior.

In 2021, McGonigal and Shestakov, two agents employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investiagate oligarchs, allegedly accepted money from Deripaska in exchange for examining a competitor Russian oligarch. The Department of Justice has claimed that McGonigal and Shestakov were compensated through fictitious companies and falsified signatures to cover up the fact that Deripaska was the source of payment.

In addition to breaching sanctions, they are accused of laundering money, with each of their four charges possibly resulting in a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Michael Driscoll, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI, expressed the Agency’s dedication to upholding economic sanctions that protect the United States and its allies from the malicious activities of foreign governments.

He specifically noted Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is connected to bribery, extortion and violence, as an example of such actions. Driscoll went on to state that two U.S. citizens, Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov, worked on behalf of Deripaska and attempted to conceal their activity through a U.S. entity, violating the sanctions. He concluded by pointing out that even former FBI officials, such as Mr. McGonigal, must abide by the sanctions and that no one is exempt.

Following his departure from the FBI, McGonigal was employed by a law firm representing the Russian oligarch Deripaska. The indictment states that McGonigal received a minimum of $25,000 for his work as an “investigator” on the Deripaska case. Later, McGonigal was employed directly by Deripaska, with an initial payment of $51,000 and then three monthly payments of $41,790 from August 2021 to November 2021. According to the indictment, McGonigal told his friends he was working for “a rich Russian guy”, and assured them that the work was legal. In conversations about Deripaska, McGonigal and Shestakov would often refer to him as “the big guy” or “you know whom”.