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Ex-FBI official gets over 2 years in prison for receiving $225,000 tied to Albania

Charles McGonigal, a former special agent in charge of the FBI's counterintelligence division in New York, arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
Jose Luis Magana
Charles McGonigal, a former special agent in charge of the FBI's counterintelligence division in New York, arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

WASHINGTON — A former high-ranking FBI counterintelligence official was sentenced on Friday to more than two years in prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from a businessman with ties to the Albanian government — and trying to conceal their corrupt financial relationship.

Charles McGonigal, 55, supervised national security operations for the FBI in New York for nearly two years before his retirement in 2018. He appeared to advance Albanian interests in the U.S. after he asked for and received roughly $225,000 in 2017 from a man who had worked for an Albanian intelligence agency, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced McGonigal to two years and four months in prison for the case brought in Washington, D.C. She ordered him to serve it consecutively to a 50-month prison sentence for a separate case in New York, so he is facing a total of six years and six months when he reports to prison next month.

McGonigal expressed remorse and sorrow for what he called "mistakes," saying he betrayed the confidence and trust of his loved ones.

"For the rest of my life, I will be fighting to regain that trust and become a better person," he told Kollar-Kotelly before she imposed his sentence.

The judge told McGonigal that it appears he "lost his moral compass" at the end of a distinguished FBI career, when he held one of the highest national security positions in the federal government. She said his remorse seemed genuine.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't repair the damage," she added.

Justice Department prosecutors had recommended sentencing McGonigal to a prison term of two years and six months for the Washington case alone.

"Abusing the public trust is particularly egregious when, as here, the motivation was pure greed and the defendant is a law enforcement officer charged with enforcing the very same laws he flagrantly violated.," they wrote in a court filing.

McGonigal was previously sentenced over Russia sanctions violation

In December, a federal judge in New York sentenced McGonigal to four years and two months in prison for conspiring to violate sanctions on Russia by going to work for a Russian oligarch whom he once investigated. The oligarch, billionaire industrialist Oleg Deripaska, was under U.S. sanctions for reasons related to Russia's occupation of Crimea.

McGonigal was scheduled to report to prison next month to begin serving his sentence in the New York case. His lawyers urged the judge in Washington to refrain from imposing more prison time, arguing that he already has received a "just punishment" for his crimes.

"His fall from grace has been precipitous, having lost his job, his reputation and the peace of his family life, and he now faces the stark prospect of the 50-month sentence he is about to begin serving," his defense attorneys wrote.

McGonigal was separately charged with concealing his ties to the former Albanian official, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was living in New Jersey. McGonigal has said that he borrowed the $225,000 to launch a security consulting business after he retired from the FBI. He didn't repay the loan.

In 2017, McGonigal flew to Albania with his benefactor and met with a former Albanian energy minister and the country's prime minister. McGonigle warned the prime minister to avoid awarding oil field drilling licenses in Albania to Russian front companies, according to prosecutors. They say McGonigal's travel companion and the energy minister had financial stakes in the Albanian government's decisions about the drilling licenses.

McGonigal pleaded guilty last September to concealing material facts, a charge punishable by a maximum prison sentence of five years. He admitted that he failed to report the loan, his travel in Europe with the person who lent him the money or his contacts with foreign officials during the trips.

"He put his own greed above service to his country," a prosecutor, Elizabeth Aloi, said Friday.

Defense attorney Seth Ducharme urged the judge to let McGonigal serve his two prison sentences simultaneously. McGonigal didn't need more prison time beyond his 50-month sentence in New York "to serve the ends of justice," Ducharme argued.

"He didn't betray his country. He broke the law," the attorney said.

The FBI had to review many other investigations to determine whether McGonigal compromised any of them during his tenure.

"The defendant worked on some of the most sensitive and significant matters handled by the FBI. His lack of credibility, as revealed by his conduct underlying his offense of conviction, could jeopardize them all," prosecutors wrote.

McGonigal expressed remorse in a statement submitted to the court.

"I keep wishing this was all a bad dream I could simply wake up from," he wrote.

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The Associated Press
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