Svetlana Parnas is the wife of Lev Parnas, who is one of two associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani indicted on campaign finance violations. Parnas and Igor Fruman pleaded not guilty. In the months since the arrest, Parnas has offered to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry against the president. His wife, Svetlana, has appeared at his side on days he’s appeared in court.
Here’s how we got here: Parnas and Fruman were arrested on October 9, 2019, at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. The two men were carrying one-way tickets to Vienna and were stopped as they prepared to board the plane.
According to the federal indictment, Parnas and Fruman were accused of using foreign money to influence politicians in the United States. For example, prosecutors said the men asked a congressman to help remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, from her position while donating large sums to the lawmaker.
Parnas, a U.S. citizen originally from Ukraine, is a business executive based in Florida. His company, Global Energy Producers, was listed in the indictment as an alleged vehicle through which Parnas and Fruman could make large political contributions without using their names. Prosecutors referred to this as a “straw donor scheme.” Records from the Federal Election Commission show that Global Energy Producers donated $325,000 to a pro-Trump PAC called America First Action in 2018.
Svetlana Parnas was not named in the indictment. But she manages an investment group alongside her husband that, according to court documents, actually made the donation to the PAC supporting President Trump — not Global Energy Producers.
As referenced above, Lev Parnas has broken with both Giuliani and the president in the months since his arrest and offered to cooperate with lawmakers as part of the impeachment probe. Parnas claims that President Trump was aware of his and Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Hunter Biden in Ukraine and that the scheme was centered on finding information that could damage former Vice President Joe Biden as it related to the 2020 election and help Trump win reelection. Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on January 15 that President Trump “was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.” The White House has disputed this account.
Parnas has also said that wife Svetlana has been “embarrassed” over his former devotion to President Trump. He told CNN that he used to “love” Trump. “When the FBI came to my house to raid, my wife felt embarrassed because they said I had a shrine to him. I had pictures all over. I idolized him. I thought he was the savior.” He added during that interview, “I thought they were going to shut me up and make me look like the scapegoat and try to blame me for stuff I haven’t done.”
Here’s what you need to know about Svetlana Parnas.
1. Lev Parnas Claimed That a $1 Million Loan That Came From a Russian Bank Account In 2019 Was For Svetlana Parnas; Prosecutors Alleged That Parnas Had Been Trying to Hide Assets
In mid-December 2019, Svetlana Parnas’ name came up in court proceedings. Prosecutors cited a $1 million transfer that was made in September 2019 from a Russian bank account. The money was transferred by an attorney for Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who had been connected to Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for then-candidate Donald Trump.
Investigators alleged that Lev Parnas had tried to hide this transfer and that it was proof that he could pose as a flight risk if allowed to remain out of prison on bail. Prosecutors accused Parnas of being untruthful about his total assets.
But Parnas’ defense team says the money had been intended as a loan for Svetlana Parnas, the Washington Post reported. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski disagreed with this claim, arguing to the judge that an “unsecured, undocumented loan to a housewife with no assets… makes no sense.”
But Judge J. Paul Oetken decided that any “misstatements” on Lev Parnas’ part about the $1 million transfer did not warrant revocation of the bail. He remains under house arrest as the case progresses.
2. The 2018 Donation to the Pro-Trump PAC Allegedly Stemmed From a Wire Transfer From Aaron Investments LLC, A Company That Svetlana & Lev Parnas Manage
The Florida Department of State website lists a company called Aaron Investments LLC that was registered with the state in 2015. Lev Parnas is named as the company manager.
Svetlana Parnas is listed on the filing as an “Authorized Member” and a “Registered Agent within the company, which is based in Boca Raton.
In June of 2019, Lev Parnas and his entity entitled “Parnas Holdings Inc” were issued subpoenas for documents in the federal Southern District of Florida court. On page 8, the document states that Aaron Investments LLC made a wire transfer of $325,000 on May 17, 2018.
The document goes on that the attorney requests “Any and all documentation, including correspondence, related to the attached wire that explains why You reported to the federal authorities the source of the funds wired were from third party Global Energy Producers, LLC (See attached Exhibit 2) and not Aaron Investments I, LLC the apparent source of the funds.” Svetlana’s name is specifically listed further in the document.
The date of the wire transfer matches the date listed on the Federal Election Commission website, marking when the $325,000 donation was made to the America First Action PAC.
3. Lev Parnas’ Son, Aaron Parnas, Interned at Rudy Giuliani’s Former Law Firm
Lev Parnas’ son, Aaron Parnas, is pursuing a legal career. He attends the George Washington University Law School and is scheduled to graduate in 2020. He began law school at a younger age, 18, because he finished his bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University while still attending high school, according to the Palm Beach Post.
He told the newspaper in 2017, “One day I hope to be president of the United States, and all this is just a building block. It might seem like a lofty goal, but it’s one that I could definitely achieve.” The newspaper added that Parnas volunteered for the Trump campaign in 2016.
Giuliani has not been associated with the law firm since at least mid-2018. The New York Times reported in May of 2018 that Giuliani had resigned from the firm after initially taking a leave of absence to represent President Trump.
4. Lev & Svetlana Parnas Have a Legal History That Includes Failing to Pay Debts & They Were Evicted From a Boca Raton Home in 2014
Lev and Svetlana Parnas have a history of financial legal issues. A search of court records in Palm Beach County brings up multiple closed cases involving small claims judgments.
For example, a 2016 case lists Svetlana Parnas as the defendant in a civil suit against Portfolio Recovery Associates. The complaint shows that Parnas owed $3,398 and had not made necessary payments.
Lev and Svetlana Parnas were evicted from a property in Boca Raton in 2014 by the landlord. According to the court document, the couple was responsible for paying a monthly rent of $15,000 but failed to pay.
Lev Parnas was also sued in federal court for failing to repay a $350,000 loan to Dianne and Michael Pues. They had lent Parnas the funds to invest in a movie project back in 2010, but were never repaid. A federal court judge later ruled that Parnas owed the couple $500,000 but has yet to return any of the money. Dianne Pues told the Miami Herald, “He conned us from day one… He financially ruined us. Our lives have not been the same since the day we met him.”
5. Svetlana Was Also Born In Ukraine & Has Been Married to Lev Parnas Since 2012
Svetlana and Lev Parnas tied the knot in 2012. The couple has five children, but it’s unclear how many of them are Svetlana’s biological children.
In addition to Aaron Parnas, who is attending law school, the family includes three younger sons and a daughter. In a picture featuring Svetlana, Lev, and all five children, Svetlana wrote in the caption, “My Whole World In One Picture.”
Their youngest child appears to have been born relatively recently. Svetlana’s profile picture features her and the baby. A friend commented on the picture, “your baby boy is delicious!”
Svetlana Parnas, like her husband, was born in Ukraine. The marriage certificate from the Florida Department of Health states that she was born on March 22, 1988, in Ukraine. It does not include a specific city. The marriage application was filed on November 12, 2010.
Lev Parnas was previously married to Barbara Bella Tessein.