A former high-ranking FBI counterintelligence official pleaded guilty on Friday to concealing at least US$225,000 in cash that he allegedly received from a former Albanian intelligence official while working for the agency.
Charles McGonigal, 55, was the special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York from 2016 to 2018, when he retired.
The charge to which he pleaded guilty — concealment of material facts — carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to sentence McGonigal on Feb. 16, 2024.
The indictment for the Washington case does not characterize the payment to McGonigal as a bribe, but federal prosecutors say he was required to report it. The payment created a conflict of interest between McGonigal’s FBI duties and his private financial interests, the indictment said.
In August, McGonigal pleaded guilty in New York to a separate charge that he conspired to violate sanctions on Russia by going to work for a Russian oligarch whom he had investigated.
An indictment unsealed in January accused McGonigal of working with a former Soviet diplomat-turned-interpreter on behalf of Russian billionaire industrialist Oleg Deripaska. McGonigal accepted over US$17,000 to help Deripaska collect derogatory information about another Russian oligarch who was a business competitor.
Deripaska has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018 for reasons related to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. McGonigal also was charged with working to have Deripaska’s sanctions lifted.
McGonigal is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14 for his conviction in the New York case.
McGonigal was arrested in January after arriving at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport
In the Washington case, McGonigal agreed with prosecutors that he failed to report the US$225,000 loan, his travel in Europe with the person who lent him the money or his contacts with foreign nationals during the trips, including the prime minister of Albania.
McGonigal hasn’t repaid the money that he borrowed, a prosecutor said.
During Friday’s hearing, McGonigal told the judge that he borrowed the money to help him launch a security consulting business after he retired from the FBI. He also apologized to the agency.
“This is not a situation I wanted to be in or to put them through,” he said.