Federal prosecutors say the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York office laundered money, violated sanctions against Russia while working with a Russian oligarch and while still at the FBI took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foreign national and former foreign intelligence official.
Charles McGonigal, 55, was arrested on Saturday after arriving at JFK airport in New York on a flight from the Middle East.
A case filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges that while serving as Special Agent in Charge of FBI counterintelligence efforts in the New York office, McGonigal took $225,000 in cash from an individual with business interests in Europe who had been an employee of a foreign intelligence service.
From August 2017 through his retirement in September 2018, McGonigal allegedly concealed his relationship with this former foreign security officer from the FBI. He allegedly requested and received cash from the individual and traveled abroad with the individual.
“Mr. McGonigal betrayed his solemn oath to the United States in exchange for personal gain and at the expense of our national security,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway.
Federal prosecutors in New York allege that after his 2018 retirement from the FBI, McGonigal worked with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Deripaska associate Sergey Shestakov, and a third person to investigate a rival Russian oligarch in return for payments from Deripaska.
According to prosecutors, McGonigal, Shestakov and the third person tried to conceal Deripaska’s involvement through shell companies, forged signatures and other means.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said, “As alleged, Charles McGonigal, a former high-level FBI official, and Sergey Shestakov, a Court interpreter, violated U.S. sanctions by agreeing to provide services to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch. They both previously worked with Deripaska to attempt to have his sanctions removed, and, as public servants, they should have known better.”
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll said, “The FBI is committed to the enforcement of economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, especially against hostile activities of a foreign government and its actors. Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion, and violence.”
The Treasury Department has sanctioned Deripaska for “having acted or purported to act on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation and for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy,” according to the Justice Department. In 2022, federal prosecutors in New York charged Deripaska with violating sanctions.
Given McGonigal’s ties to the Washington and New York area offices of the FBI, the Los Angeles field office led the two-year-long investigation, three senior law enforcement officials said. The decision to move the probe to Los Angeles was to ensure there were no conflicts of interest or competing interests among agents who may have known McGonigal.
McGonigal’s career included a stop as a section chief coordinating the FBI’s cyber and counterintelligence programs at the FBI’s secretive Intelligence Technology and Data Division (ITADD) in Chantilly, Virginia, as well as his position in New York, public records show.
McGonigal was named special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office in 2016, after serving as the section chief of the Cyber-Counterintelligence Coordination Section at FBI headquarters.
McGonigal joined the FBI in 1996, and was first assigned to the New York Field Office, where he worked on Russian foreign counterintelligence and organized crime.
During his tenure in New York, he worked on the TWA Flight 800 investigation, was assigned to the task force investigating scientist Wen Ho Lee, investigated the 1998 terrorist bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Seth DuCharme, McGonigal’s attorney, said, “Charlie served the U.S. effectively for decades. He will plead not guilty. We look forward to seeing the evidence.”
DuCharme said he expected McGonigal to be released from custody Monday.
Jonathan Dienst is chief justice contributor for NBC News and chief investigative reporter for WNBC-TV in New York.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.