Lev Parnas, a Boca Raton businessman, is the latest obscure figure in the center of the impeachment whirlwind of President Trump. Call him the new Michael Avenatti.
He is currently out on bond facing federal charges of conspiracy and lying to the Federal Election Commission about political donations.
A reported associate of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Parnas on Wednesday alleged that Trump personally directed an effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate one of his political rivals.
“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he said in a televised interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday. “He was aware of all my movements … I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.”
The interview took place after the House of Representatives transferred articles of impeachment to the Senate ahead of Trump’s trial.
But who is Boca’s Lev Parnas, and can he be trusted?
Lev’s name means “lion” in Russian. Parnas was born in February 1972 in Odessa, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. His family moved to America when he was three, first to Detroit, then to New York.
When Parnas was 23, he settled in South Florida. He co-founded a company called Global Energy Producers and, in 2013, another named Fraud Guarantee. The company reportedly worked to bury Google search results about a history of debts and court judgments against him. Trustworthy.
After running into Trump, Parnas became politically motivated and attended many of Trump’s campaign rallies and became a donor.
“Parnas told me that he ‘bumped into’ Trump ‘plenty of times’ at events in New York over the years, but that they didn’t get to know each other until the 2016 campaign,” Adam Entous of the New Yorker reported.
After Trump’s shock win, Parnas became closer to Giuliani and allegedly worked on his behalf to look into the sweetheart deal Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, had in the Ukraine.
President Trump continues to maintain, despite some photos with Parnas, he does not know the man.
Parnas told the New Yorker: “Because of my Ukrainian background and my contacts there, I became like Rudy’s assistant, his investigator. I don’t do anything on my own. I don’t lobby people. I go get information. I set up a meeting. I make sure that the call went right. I make sure the translation is done right.”
Documents released this week suggest that Parnas was also involved in monitoring the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, who was ambassador to Ukraine until Trump abruptly recalled her last May. Ukraine said on Thursday it has launched an investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of Yovanovitch.
Last October Parnas was arrested by Federal agents as he tried to flee the US. He was indicted on felony charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records and ordered to turn over key documents to congressional investigators. He is currently making impeachment waves while out on bond perhaps to receive a lesser sentence. Parnas has plead not guilty.
Prosecutors allege he made campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving millions of dollars originating from Russia.
Trump said last year: “I don’t know those gentlemen. I don’t know what they do. Maybe you will have to ask Rudy.”
Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday: “I mean, we’re not friends. Me and him didn’t watch football games together. We didn’t eat hot dogs. But he knew exactly who we were. He knew exactly who I was, especially because I interacted with him at a lot of events.”
As a “Florida businessman,” Parnas never really enjoyed financial success in Boca. Several of his commercial endeavors while he lived in Boca ended in flops.
According to lawsuits, “He routinely stiffed landlords for rent on homes and an office in southern Palm Beach Countys. And he lost a suit brought against him by a client who testified in federal court that Parnas convinced him to invest in a phony movie starring Jack Nicholson. To sell the charade, Parnas drove a Bentley for a pitch meeting in Boca and was pestered by paparazzi at a powwow in Manhattan.