The former head of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York field office pleaded guilty Friday in Washington, DC, in connection to a scheme to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee as well as foreign contacts he made with the individual.
The guilty plea comes one month after the former counterintelligence head, Charles McGonigal, pleaded guilty in New York to one count of conspiring to violate US sanctions on Russia on separate charges connected to work he did for a sanctioned Russian oligarch in 2021.
In the DC case, prosecutors alleged that McGonigal worked to further interests that the former foreign intelligence employee – now a naturalized US citizen from New Jersey – had abroad. According to an agreed upon statement of facts, the individual gave McGonigal at least $225,000 in 2017.
McGonigal, who pleaded guilty to one count of concealment of material facts in DC, told the federal judge during his plea hearing that the individual was his friend and that they planned to start a consulting firm together when McGonigal retired from the FBI.
The money, McGonigal said, was part of a loan for that business – though in the statement of facts connected to the plea deal, McGonigal agreed that there were no terms to the loan and that he never paid it back.
During McGonigal’s time at the FBI, the two traveled to Albania several times and met with the country’s prime minister. McGonigal advocated on behalf of the former intelligence employee to the prime minister over oil field drilling contacts that his friend had a financial interest in.
The overseas meetings, which he did not disclose to the FBI, were to develop potential business relationships, McGonigal said. He also told the court he knew that engaging in personal business was not permitted while working for the FBI, and he apologized to the bureau and to his wife.
According to the statement of facts, the FBI also opened up an investigation into a US citizen who was lobbying for a political party in Albania “based in part on information provided by defendant McGonigal and his direction.”
In the investigation, McGonigal’s potential future business partner acted as a confidential human source in the investigation, and a foreign Albanian contact McGonigal had met helped facilitate meetings between witnesses in Europe and the FBI, including paying for the witnesses’ travel expenses.
McGonigal is set to be sentenced in the DC case in February. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, though he could be sentenced to far less.