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Ukraine Launches Probe Over Whether US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Was Tracked

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Ukraine launches probe over whether US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was tracked

 
Kim Hjelmgaard and Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY  January 16, 2020
 
 
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Ukraine's interior ministry launched an investigation Thursday into claims former United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was placed under surveillance in the country by people linked to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer. 

The probe by Ukraine came after House Democrats on Tuesday released a trove of documents, including phone records, that appeared to indicate that Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, discussed tracking Yovanovitch in March 2019. Parnas is a central figure in the Trump impeachment investigation. 

In a statement, Ukraine's interior ministry said it does not want to interfere in U.S. domestic affairs, but it can't ignore potentially illegal activities and it needs to protect the rights and safety of foreign diplomats deployed on its soil. It said its investigation intends to determine whether "there actually was a violation" or "just bravado and fake information during informal conversation between two U.S. citizens."

Top Democrat: 'Profoundly alarming' threats against former U.S. Amb. Yovanovitch

The text messages published by House Democrats showed Parnas was in contact with Robert Hyde, a pro-Trump congressional candidate in Connecticut who claimed to have Yovanovitch under surveillance. In March, Parnas sent Hyde articles critical of Yovanovitch. Hyde responded, "Wow. can't believe Trumo [sic] hasn't fired this b****."

Hyde also sent Parnas a series of messages suggesting he had hired people in Ukraine to surveil the ambassador and was getting updates about her whereabouts and activities. "She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off," Hyde wrote in one message. In another: "They will let me know when she’s on the move."

Ukraine-born Parnas worked with Giuliani to execute Trump's alleged Ukraine pressure campaign, which Trump's critics allege was aimed at getting dirt on his political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Trump denies the allegations. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 15, 2019.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 15, 2019.

Parnas said in a Wednesday TV interview that "Trump knew exactly what was going on" in Ukraine during the White House's alleged pressure campaign, but Stephanie Grisham, White House press secretary, pushed back Thursday in a statement, saying that the "allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison. The facts haven’t changed - the President did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats has been a sham from the start." 

Ukraine's interior ministry also said it was probing a suspected cyberattack by Russian military hackers on the energy company Burisma, which is at the center of the impeachment investigation because of its ties to Joe Biden's son, Hunter.

 

https://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-launches-probe-over-whether-135457793.html

 

GO RV, then BV 

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A GOP congressional candidate allegedly behind the surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch called her a 'scumbag' on Twitter, and spread conspiracy theories about Ukraine

8671bb20-a4bf-11e9-bf77-b045690ae315
 (Tom Porter)
,
Business InsiderJanuary 15, 2020
37 Comments
 
 
Robert Hyde
Robert Hyde

Hyde for Congress

  • On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released messages in which GOP congressional candidate Robert Hyde suggested to Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas he was sureveilling the US' ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. 

  • Hyde is a congressional candidate in Connecticut, and on social media has targeted former Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris with an obscene tweet, and Yovanovitch with insults and smears. 

  • These smears included calling her a "scumbag" and a "traitor," and suggesting she worked for George Soros.

  • In an incident at a Florida Trump resort, he claimed he was being targeted for assassination and was detained under laws for people who police believe may be a risk to their own safety, reported Mother Jones. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Messages in which a GOP candidate suggested to Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that he had placed Marie Yovanovitch, then-US ambassador to Ukraine, under surveillance, were released Tuesday.

They introduced a new player into the Ukraine scandal — a GOP congressional candidate in Connecticut named Robert Hyde — whom lawyers for Parnas told media outlets was the man behind the messages. 

Before the release of Tuesday's batch of messages Hyde was best known for sending an obscene message to former Democratic presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, on Twitter.

The message, which has since been deleted, saw Hyde make a crude joke about Harris and oral sex after she dropped out of the presidential race in December 2019.

Democrats and top Republicans urged him to withdraw from the race over the message. 

While he deleted that particular tweet, a review of Hyde's Twitter feed shows he has long taken a hardline pro-Trump stance, distributing pro-Trump conspiracies, and singling out Yovanovitch in attacks. 

In a message sent during Yovanovitch's impeachment testimony in November, where she described being warned to leave Ukraine over threats to her security, he described her as a "traitor" and "scumbag."

He also shared list of smears about her, including that she worked for Jewish financier George Soros, a favorite far-right trope. 

Yovanovitch's attorneys have called for a formal investigation to be launched into the messages.

 

We elected President Trump to drain the swamp of traitors like this. Maria is a yuge pos. She has so much dirt on the Clinton’s and Bidens. Such a scumbag. #draintheswamp #mariaisatraitor #trump2020 #hyde2020

View image on Twitter
 
 
 

 

Business Insider has attempted to reach Hyde for comment, but had not recieved a response at the time of publication.

On Tuesday night, Hyde tweeted: "These are bad people, I'm out to expose their actions. Attack me all you want, get the facts first.

"The media is against me because they're either complicit or have a hand in it, I welcome an investigation. I'll provide my email password and hand my phone over, bring it on. #hyde" 

Then on Wednesday morning, Hyde made two jokes on Twitter referring to himself as a CIA agent, seemingly in reference to allegations he surveilled Yovanovitch:

 

Day Job: “Titular Head” of a Connecticut landscape company...

Night Job: CIA international spook, aka Scarfface ...lol #draintheswamp #hydegate #impeachmentsham

 
 
 

 

The Daily Beast reported that in a Facebook message he claimed that the messages to Parnas had been intended as a joke to fool him.

"How low can liddle Adam Bull Schiff go?" Hyde wrote, referring to House Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff.

"I was never in Kiev. For them to take some texts my buddy's and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable. Schiff is a desperate turd playing with this Lev guy. Have fun with your witch-hunt liddle Schiff."

After his tweets to Harris were criticized, the state Republican party returned a donation he had made. 

Hyde has also shared pictures on social media of himself posing with President Donald Trump, top Republicans, and other members of the Trump family. 

As recently as January 11 he shared an image of himself with the president. 

 

Thankful this man is our President!

View image on Twitter
 
 
 

 

He also reportedly sent a CTinsider reporter images last November of himself posing with Giuliani, Parnas and Igor Fruman, who alongside Parnas was indicted last year for allegedly feeding foreign money into GOP campaigns. Both men deny the charges. 

According to the CTinsider report, he is a former Marine who owns a Washington DC lobbying business, Finley Hyde and Associates. A LinkedIn profile for Hyde lists him as the president of the company.

Late Tuesday, Mother Jones obtained a report from police in Florida. According to the report, officers had been called to the Trump Doral Miami resort in May with a report of a "male in distress fearing for his life." 

The man was Hyde, the report said. He claimed "he was in fear for his life, was set up and that a hit man was out to get him."

"Additionally Mr. Hyde explained that his computer was being hacked by Secret Service. And then went on to further explain that the secret service [sic] was arrival [sic] on the premises watching him."

He was reportedly detained under a law police in the state use for holding people they believe are a risk to their own safety. 

 

https://news.yahoo.com/gop-congressional-candidate-allegedly-behind-144900030.html

 

GO RV, then BV

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1 hour ago, Shabibilicious said:

A GOP congressional candidate allegedly behind the surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch called her a 'scumbag' on Twitter, and spread conspiracy theories about Ukraine

8671bb20-a4bf-11e9-bf77-b045690ae315
 (Tom Porter)
,
Business InsiderJanuary 15, 2020
37 Comments
 
 
Robert Hyde
Robert Hyde

Hyde for Congress

  • On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released messages in which GOP congressional candidate Robert Hyde suggested to Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas he was sureveilling the US' ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. 

  • Hyde is a congressional candidate in Connecticut, and on social media has targeted former Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris with an obscene tweet, and Yovanovitch with insults and smears. 

  • These smears included calling her a "scumbag" and a "traitor," and suggesting she worked for George Soros.

  • In an incident at a Florida Trump resort, he claimed he was being targeted for assassination and was detained under laws for people who police believe may be a risk to their own safety, reported Mother Jones. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Messages in which a GOP candidate suggested to Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that he had placed Marie Yovanovitch, then-US ambassador to Ukraine, under surveillance, were released Tuesday.

They introduced a new player into the Ukraine scandal — a GOP congressional candidate in Connecticut named Robert Hyde — whom lawyers for Parnas told media outlets was the man behind the messages. 

Before the release of Tuesday's batch of messages Hyde was best known for sending an obscene message to former Democratic presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, on Twitter.

The message, which has since been deleted, saw Hyde make a crude joke about Harris and oral sex after she dropped out of the presidential race in December 2019.

Democrats and top Republicans urged him to withdraw from the race over the message. 

While he deleted that particular tweet, a review of Hyde's Twitter feed shows he has long taken a hardline pro-Trump stance, distributing pro-Trump conspiracies, and singling out Yovanovitch in attacks. 

In a message sent during Yovanovitch's impeachment testimony in November, where she described being warned to leave Ukraine over threats to her security, he described her as a "traitor" and "scumbag."

He also shared list of smears about her, including that she worked for Jewish financier George Soros, a favorite far-right trope. 

Yovanovitch's attorneys have called for a formal investigation to be launched into the messages.

 

We elected President Trump to drain the swamp of traitors like this. Maria is a yuge pos. She has so much dirt on the Clinton’s and Bidens. Such a scumbag. #draintheswamp #mariaisatraitor #trump2020 #hyde2020

View image on Twitter
 
 
 

 

Business Insider has attempted to reach Hyde for comment, but had not recieved a response at the time of publication.

On Tuesday night, Hyde tweeted: "These are bad people, I'm out to expose their actions. Attack me all you want, get the facts first.

"The media is against me because they're either complicit or have a hand in it, I welcome an investigation. I'll provide my email password and hand my phone over, bring it on. #hyde" 

Then on Wednesday morning, Hyde made two jokes on Twitter referring to himself as a CIA agent, seemingly in reference to allegations he surveilled Yovanovitch:

 

Day Job: “Titular Head” of a Connecticut landscape company...

Night Job: CIA international spook, aka Scarfface ...lol #draintheswamp #hydegate #impeachmentsham

 
 
 

 

The Daily Beast reported that in a Facebook message he claimed that the messages to Parnas had been intended as a joke to fool him.

"How low can liddle Adam Bull Schiff go?" Hyde wrote, referring to House Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff.

"I was never in Kiev. For them to take some texts my buddy's and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable. Schiff is a desperate turd playing with this Lev guy. Have fun with your witch-hunt liddle Schiff."

After his tweets to Harris were criticized, the state Republican party returned a donation he had made. 

Hyde has also shared pictures on social media of himself posing with President Donald Trump, top Republicans, and other members of the Trump family. 

As recently as January 11 he shared an image of himself with the president. 

 

Thankful this man is our President!

View image on Twitter
 
 
 

 

He also reportedly sent a CTinsider reporter images last November of himself posing with Giuliani, Parnas and Igor Fruman, who alongside Parnas was indicted last year for allegedly feeding foreign money into GOP campaigns. Both men deny the charges. 

According to the CTinsider report, he is a former Marine who owns a Washington DC lobbying business, Finley Hyde and Associates. A LinkedIn profile for Hyde lists him as the president of the company.

Late Tuesday, Mother Jones obtained a report from police in Florida. According to the report, officers had been called to the Trump Doral Miami resort in May with a report of a "male in distress fearing for his life." 

The man was Hyde, the report said. He claimed "he was in fear for his life, was set up and that a hit man was out to get him."

"Additionally Mr. Hyde explained that his computer was being hacked by Secret Service. And then went on to further explain that the secret service [sic] was arrival [sic] on the premises watching him."

He was reportedly detained under a law police in the state use for holding people they believe are a risk to their own safety. 

 

https://news.yahoo.com/gop-congressional-candidate-allegedly-behind-144900030.html

 

GO RV, then BV

 

Lock him.... Lock him... Lock him....

 

B/A

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5 minutes ago, bostonangler said:

 

Lock him.... Lock him... Lock him....

 

B/A

 

I'm not suggesting that....just thought putting a face to the name was relevant.

 

GO RV, then BV

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5 minutes ago, bostonangler said:

 

Lock him.... Lock him... Lock him....

 

B/A

For what?  I would not trust anything that came out of the House. They will try anything to discredit Trump. 

Where was all this during the impeachment (. :lmao: ) process?  

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1 minute ago, nstoolman1 said:

I would not trust anything that came out of the House

 

 

I know what you mean... We can't trust anything coming out of the house, the senate and especially the White House.

 

B/A

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Erratic Ex-Landscaper Is Unlikely New Impeachment Figure

6ac5ddf0-3256-11ea-bffd-e12ab88d1b71
Michael Rothfeld, William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess
,
The New York TimesJanuary 16, 2020
207 Comments
 
 
bc269c70-3869-11ea-afdc-a13a83e1d6c3
 
Erratic Ex-Landscaper Is Unlikely New Impeachment Figure
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Even in an impeachment drama brimming with improbable characters, Robert Hyde stands out.

Hyde, an obscure Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut, was thrust into the proceedings to remove President Donald Trump from office Tuesday when the House released a series of encrypted messages he exchanged last year with an associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

The messages suggest that Hyde had been secretly tracking the movements of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time.

The conversations drew alarm from Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post on Trump’s orders, and calls from a member of Congress for an investigation. But Hyde wrote the matter off as a goof, saying on Twitter on Tuesday that he was “playing with” Giuliani’s associate, Lev Parnas.

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It was only the latest in a series of erratic episodes for Hyde, a 40-year-old former landscaper with a public relations company and a congressional campaign marked by inflammatory remarks.

Last May, two months after the exchange with Parnas, the police responded to Trump’s Doral golf resort in Florida, where Hyde told officers that he feared a hit man was going to kill him, records show.

“Mr. Hyde spoke about emails he sent that may have placed his life in jeopardy,” a May 16 police report read.

It was not clear from Hyde’s messages with Parnas whether Yovanovitch was really being watched, or why.

The messages suggest Hyde had contacts in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, who were monitoring her. Parnas said in an interview Wednesday that he did not participate in whatever Hyde was doing, and Giuliani said that he knew nothing about what the men had discussed.

Congressional Democrats said that some of the communications had a threatening tone.

“They are moving her tomorrow,” Hyde wrote to Parnas on March 25, just before 10 p.m. “The guys over there asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them.”

Parnas was working with Giuliani to oust Yovanovitch, whom they considered an impediment to their efforts to improve the president’s political fortunes. Trump later ordered her removal.

The messages were included in a cache of documents that Parnas, a Florida businessman who is facing federal campaign finance charges in New York, provided to lawmakers as part of their impeachment inquiry. The materials, which had been seized by the FBI, were recently returned to him.

In social media posts and in text messages to reporters this week, Hyde has referred to Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which released the documents, as “Adam Bull Schiff” and “liddle Adam Schitt.”

In an interview Wednesday with Eric Bolling of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Hyde called the messages “colorful texts” and said he was “joking around.”

“I was never a close associate of Lev Parnas,” Hyde said in the interview. “Did I like his character, and did we have a lot of laughs and joke a little bit? Of course.”

Hyde is one of four Republicans vying to challenge Rep. Jahana Hayes, a first-term Democrat in Connecticut. Last month, he came under fire from members of his own party for a vulgar tweet about Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., when she dropped out of the presidential race. The tweet was later deleted.

Soon after, the Hartford Courant reported that, although Hyde had made tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions, he had fallen behind on child support payments. On Wednesday, Connecticut’s Republican chairman urged him to quit the race.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, on Wednesday called Hyde’s messages to Parnas “profoundly alarming” and said that members of his staff had contacted the State Department to ensure the security of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and of Yovanovitch.

“This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Engel said in a statement.

The State Department did not respond to requests for comment. But a Foreign Affairs Committee staff member said that the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, whose agents protect diplomats and investigate certain crimes, had told the committee that it would immediately open an investigation.

In the interview Wednesday, Parnas said that he had nothing to do with any potential surveillance of Yovanovitch and that he doubted it had actually occurred.

“I never took Mr. Hyde seriously,” Parnas said.

Parnas said he met Hyde at the Trump Hotel Washington, where both men were frequent guests. Hyde also became a fixture at some of the same Republican fundraising events in Washington and in Florida that Parnas attended, including the 2019 inauguration of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis.

Hyde, who was often spotted buying rounds of drinks for fellow supporters of Trump at the Washington hotel, gained access to the Republican events in part because he had donated $25,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, a person briefed on the matter said. Republican fundraising officials viewed him as a prospective donor to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, although he ultimately donated only $1,000, the person said.

In recent years, according to campaign finance records, Hyde has made tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to various Republican causes, including Trump’s campaign and the campaign of Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana, the brother of Vice President Mike Pence.

Hyde’s campaign website says that he served in the Marine Corps for eight years, performing security services, including in Iraq after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His LinkedIn page says that he ran a landscaping and construction company near Hartford, Connecticut, from 2002 to 2018.

In 2011, Hyde was arrested in Avon, Connecticut, on a misdemeanor charge after a tree he had been hired to remove fell on a utility pole, breaking the pole in half, according to a news report that cited the police. An Avon police spokesman said the department had a record of an incident involving Hyde but he did not provide details, and the outcome of the case could not immediately be determined.

Hyde’s LinkedIn profile also describes him as a self-employed “change agent” since January 2014. In late 2018, according to his page, he started a government and public relations firm. The home page of the company, Finley Hyde & Associates — Finley is Hyde’s middle name — has pictures of him with Trump and the vice president. His campaign website also features a picture of him with Trump.

On a disclosure form filed last month in connection with his campaign, Hyde listed $30,000 in noninvestment income last year, and about $135,000 for the preceding year.

Hyde’s exchanges with Parnas last year were cryptic at times. On March 23, after exchanging some videos, articles and tweets accusing Yovanovitch of being disloyal to Trump, Hyde reported: “She under heavy protection outside Kiev.”

Two days later, he wrote, “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off.” Hours later, after Parnas had picked up the exchange, Hyde wrote, apparently about his contacts, “They know she’s a political puppet.” Then, a few minutes later: “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”

“Perfect,” Parnas wrote. Hyde offered to try to learn Yovanovitch’s destination, writing, “They are willing to help if we/you would like a price ... Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money ... what I was told.” Parnas responded: “Lol.”

Two months after the conversation, Hyde was at Trump’s Florida golf resort when the police got a call from a friend his who was concerned about him, according to Rey Valdes, the Doral Police Department’s public information officer.

Besides his fears of a hit man, Hyde also claimed that the Secret Service had hacked his computer, according to a police report, which said he “continued to act paranoid” during the encounter. The police eventually took Hyde into custody “for his own protection,” Valdes said, before transferring him to a mental health facility.

This week, Hyde appeared to embrace his newfound notoriety. A stream of posts on his social media accounts included a video of himself and another man doing pushups by a body of water as a German shepherd wandered around, a document purporting to show that he had paid his child support obligations as of Tuesday, and attacks on Democrats and the media.

“These are bad people, I’m out to expose their actions,” Hyde wrote in one post early Wednesday. “Attack me all you want, get the facts first. The media is against me because they’re either complicit or have a hand in it, I welcome an investigation. I’ll provide my email password and hand my phone over, bring it on. #hyde2020”

In another post, Hyde wrote: “Day Job: ‘Titular Head’ of a Connecticut landscape company... Night Job: CIA international spook, aka Scarfface ...lol #draintheswamp #hydegate #impeachmentsham”

 

https://news.yahoo.com/erratic-ex-landscaper-unlikely-impeachment-130714136.html

 

GO RV, then BV

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13 minutes ago, bostonangler said:

 

Lock him.... Lock him... Lock him....

 

B/A

 

This Hyde guy is obviously a mental case who just happens to identify with the GOP and Trump.....He doesn't need incarceration, he needs help. 

 

GO RV, then BV 

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Always interesting......seems there is a full court press on...the Dems and the MSM are on a rabid roll....so what is real.....

 

Hyde......no doubt nuts,  crazy....probably needs help...but hey.....he'd fit right in there perfectly with the many dysfunctional swamp creatures in DC...

 

Yovanovitch.....she is a very wealthy ambassador....those in her profession don't make alot.....but there are perks in corrupt countries....say Ukraine as an example where Biden, Kerry and Pelosi have kids drawing large checks by being board members.......never know how the parents benefited.....and what was the compensation for the Ambassador?

 

And then let's look at Parnas.....is he credible.....or will he go down in flames for CNN and the MSM.... the same way Avinati did.....with the indictments against him....and his troubled business history....you can read it below and decide for yourself...    CL

 

 

logo

Lev Parnas's South Florida Stomping Ground A Mecca For Financial Scams

November 10, 2019 20:58 GMT
It is perhaps not a coincidence that Lev Parnas chose the wealthy beachfront town of Boca Raton in Florida as the location for one of his brokerages. (file photo)

It is perhaps not a coincidence that Lev Parnas chose the wealthy beachfront town of Boca Raton in Florida as the location for one of his brokerages. (file photo)

In late 2000, Jewish emigres from the former Soviet Union gathered in Brooklyn's ethnic enclave of Brighton Beach for the lighting of a 27-foot menorah to celebrate the start of Hanukkah.

The event, which included free food such as latkes, fresh sufganiyot, and mini-franks, was financed by two men who were "living the American dream" and wanted to give back to the community, according to a report at the time by The Jewish Press.

Lev Parnas and his business partner, Robert Grinberg, who had settled in Brooklyn like many Soviet emigres, were now owners of a broker-dealer in southern Florida trading in equities, including penny stocks, risky investments that are often the subject of lawsuits.

The Jewish Press described the two financial-sector workers as "successful beyond their wildest dreams."

Parnas's background is now under scrutiny after he was arrested on October 9 along with his latest business partner, Igor Fruman -- also a Soviet emigre -- and charged with funneling foreign money through an American shell company to politicians and political action committees, breaking U.S. campaign-finance laws.

Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty.

Lev Parnas (left) and Igor Fruman were arrested on October 9.

Lev Parnas (left) and Igor Fruman were arrested on October 9.

The 47-year old is also a key figure in the House impeachment inquiry into whether President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a political rival.

The details emerging about Parnas's work over the past two decades show a businessman who spent considerable time doing business in southern Florida, which has been a hotbed of financial fraud -- including Ponzi schemes and penny-stock scams -- for decades.

Parnas worked for two of the many southern Florida brokerages that would get shut down for fraud before buying his own. At least two former employees of his brokerage -- including his childhood friend -- and one of its former directors would later be arrested for financial scams.

Parnas, too, would catch the eye of market regulators after he was found to have used financial engineering -- and a flutter of press releases -- to turn a defunct penny-stock company into a nearly $600 million firm overnight before it soon blew up.

Parnas would then try to profit from the region's plethora of financial scams by offering his services as a defender against fraud.

Job Hoppers

Parnas and Grinberg agreed in 1998 to buy Program Trading Corp., an Orlando-based brokerage firm, through their company Aaron Investment Group.

They relocated it to Boca Raton, disparagingly called at the time the "Maggot Mile" or "Maggot Row" due to the large number of brokerages clustered in the area peddling dubious penny stocks.

The two men -- yet to turn 30 -- had tumultuous careers as brokers, changing employers often.

Parnas worked for eight brokerages in less than 4 1/2 years before taking over Program Trading, never holding a position for longer than a year, according to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker-registration data.

 
SEE ALSO: Indicted Giuliani Associate Parnas Will Comply With Impeachment Probe

One of his many stops was Euro-Atlantic Securities, which he joined in late 1996. According to the South Florida-based paper the Sun Sentinel, the Boca Raton-based firm was allegedly controlled by organized-crime figures. It would be at the center of a $40 million penny-stock scam that operated from January 1996 to April 1997. Federal prosecutors would charge 12 people in the case. Parnas, who was not accused of any wrongdoing, left Euro-Atlantic Securities in April 1997 shortly before the firm was expelled by FINRA.

Grinberg also bounced from place to place, working for 11 firms in a little over 6 1/2 years prior to joining Program Trading with Parnas.

Mari Adams, a financial adviser in Boca Raton, who urges her clients to check brokers' backgrounds, said such a history of changing jobs would have raised "red flags."

'The Boca Bunch'

Boca Raton had already developed an image as a haven for unsavory businessmen and brokerages -- often called "boiler rooms" for their high-pressure sales tactics -- before Parnas and Grinberg showed up.

In the span of a year in the early 1990s, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched investigations into six Boca Raton corporations and shut a seventh for running a Ponzi scheme, according to a 1992 New York Times article.

Companies with nothing more than an idea might issue promising press releases or hire promoters to tout their stock online.

Unscrupulous brokers would hit the phones, pitching the company's dubious story to retail investors, including retirees.

As the price climbed, insiders could sell their shares at a profit before the company floundered and the stock price crashed, a practice known as "pump and dump."

State regulators would refer to the brokers pushing these empty shells and other high-risk investments as the "Boca Bunch," according to The New York Times article.

Since then, things appear to have changed little. Courts have convicted several individuals from Boca Raton with securities and investment fraud since 2017.

In one of the largest cases, Boca Raton lawyer James Schneider was convicted last year in a case that involved the creation of 20 shell companies from 2008 through 2015. Shares of the fake companies were pumped and then sold to investors.

Parnas (left) with U.S. President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani at the funeral for George H.W. Bush in 2018. The Soviet-born Parnas worked as a fixer for Giuliani in Ukraine.

Parnas (left) with U.S. President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani at the funeral for George H.W. Bush in 2018. The Soviet-born Parnas worked as a fixer for Giuliani in Ukraine.

Eleven others were convicted in the case, including Ian Kass, who had earlier worked for Program Trading under Parnas.

Robert Shapiro, the former chief executive officer of the Woodbridge Group of Companies, which was founded in Boca Raton, was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for operating a $1.3 billion real estate Ponzi scheme.

"Another Day, Another Ponzi Scheme In Boca Raton," Adams, the financial adviser, titled a post on her company's website in January 2018 amid the investigation of Woodbridge.

Adams said scammers are drawn to Boca Raton by the wealthy population, many of whom are retirees, as well as Florida's low taxes and "strong asset protection laws." Courts cannot easily seize the assets of individuals convicted of fraud, such as their homes, she said.

Such was the operating environment Parnas and Grinberg encountered when they relocated Program Trading to Boca Raton.

Russian Athletes

Robert Renneker, who founded Program Trading in 1995, told RFE/RL he sold the brokerage because it wasn't very profitable, and competition was fierce.

He described it as a brokerage with a clean name and good infrastructure, but with no competitive edge over other firms and no niche. Parnas and Grinberg paid about $1 million, with part of the money coming from backers, Renneker said.

However, the two new owners were not really focused on the brokerage's bread-and-butter business of creating a market for investors to buy or sell securities, a commission-based business, Renneker and other employees recalled.

The two appeared more interested in investment deals, and owning a brokerage would give them credibility, Renneker said. It is also where the big profits are.

A small brokerage like Parnas's could offer financing to struggling, startup companies in exchange for shares and then promote the stock to their clients, said James Angel, a professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.

Former employees of Program Trading said the two men's investment clients included current and former Russian athletes living in the United States.

Parnas has often seemed to move in high circles. This 2018 social media post appears to show him at the White House with President Donald Trump.

Parnas has often seemed to move in high circles. This 2018 social media post appears to show him at the White House with President Donald Trump.

Renneker said Parnas was an "aggressive salesman" who acquired membership in a Boca Raton country club to hobnob with wealthy people in hopes of attracting more clients.

Parnas and Grinberg received some of their startup capital from Neal Tolar, who co-founded the Florida-based tech company Sawtek, which was taken over in 2001 in an all-stock deal for $1.3 billion. Tolar died earlier this year at age 77 and his family could not be reached for comment.

Tolar was one of four individuals listed as directors or officers of Aaron Investment, according to Florida registration documents, along with Mitchell Reisman, Grinberg, and Parnas. Reisman was also listed as an officer at Program Trading.

Arrests

Reisman would be sentenced in 2010 to 51 months in jail for investment fraud. Reisman was part of a group that solicited money from investors for B.I.M. Mining Corp., a company he and others falsely claimed possessed significant gold and mineral rights licenses.

Steven Koifman, who worked for Program Trading during two stints from 1999 to 2000 and 2002 to 2003, was arrested in 2013 along with Michael Vax -- whom The Wall Street Journal described in a 1999 article as a "Russian gangster" -- in connection with a pump-and-dump scheme.

In between his two stints at Program Trading, Koifman worked for two Boca Raton brokerages that would later be shut for fraud.

Koifman and Parnas were close childhood friends, according to a 2010 Boca Raton police report that was filed following an altercation between the two men.

Brokerage Losses

Grinberg told RFE/RL that Program Trading made good money "and then some."

However, the two bought Program Trading just as the U.S. stock market boom driven by Internet speculation came to an end.

The market-making business also fundamentally changed in 2001 as stock price quotes changed from fractions to decimals and spreads narrowed to a penny, crushing the profitability of brokerages.

Program Trading sustained a loss of $4.3 million in 2002, SEC filings show.

FINRA data indicates that Parnas and Grinberg shut the firm in September 2003. Angel, of Georgetown University, said many owners walked away from such brokerages as spreads narrowed and profits dropped.

Parnas would years later state on his new company website that he had "founded" a brokerage -- a clear reference to Program Trading -- and that his firm had been the fifth-largest wholesale market maker in the United States.

A Facebook screen shot showing from left to right: Donald Trump Jr., Tommy Hicks Jr., Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman in May 2018.

A Facebook screen shot showing from left to right: Donald Trump Jr., Tommy Hicks Jr., Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman in May 2018.

He would also claim that the firm had employed over 200 traders, made markets for over 4,500 stocks, and took over 1,000 companies public.

FINRA data indicates that no more than 57 registered professionals worked at Program Trading over its eight-year history, including Parnas and Grinberg.

Several of them left before Parnas and Grinberg took over and others had short stints, implying no more than 20 market professionals at any time.

Parnas's claim of bringing 1,000 penny stocks public during his tenure at Program Trading would imply nearly one a day, "a bit of a stretch," said Angel, a former member of the OTC Bulletin Board Advisory Committee. The OTC Bulletin Board offers prices on penny stocks.

Parnas would make a three-month comeback as a broker with Basis Financial in North Miami in 2009.

Basis Financial would be shut down by FINRA a few years later and its owner barred from the industry for repeatedly defrauding customers with penny stock investments.

Edgetech

Parnas also claims on his website that he took a technology distribution company public -- a reference to Edgetech -- and that it reached a $600 million market capitalization.

It nearly did on paper -- through financial ingenuity rather than profit growth. And it crashed quickly.

Parnas arranged in April 2006 for Dariene International -- a defunct, publicly traded company that sought to produce cholesterol-free cow's milk -- to buy his EGTH Inc. in exchange for 52.5 million new shares.

Dariene had 41,784 shares outstanding that barely traded. The bid and ask prices for its shares prior to the deal with EGTH stood at between $3.50 and $4.00, giving it a market value of $167,136.

Parnas arrives for his arraignment in the Southern District of New York on October 23.

Parnas arrives for his arraignment in the Southern District of New York on October 23.

Parnas renamed Dariene to Edgetech International, issued another 5.3 million shares to holders of $53,000 of debt and then carried out a stock split, bringing the number of shares to 115 million, according to filings.

Dariene's stock ticker DRNE was changed to EGIL and stock trading began in late May at around $3, climbing to as high as $5.03 in July on little volume, according to Bloomberg data. That gave the newly formed company with almost no revenue a market value of nearly $600 million on paper and Parnas a net worth of nearly $400 million.

Edgetech had the exclusive rights to distribute the PocketSurfer -- a mobile, wireless computer made by a Canadian company called DataWind -- but had essentially no revenue yet.

The PocketSurfer -- so named because it could surf the Internet and fit in your pocket -- would seek to compete with the emerging smartphone market.

Parnas would pump out 48 press releases between June 2006 and March 2007 touting the potential future success of Edgetech, including possible sponsorships with athletes and Hollywood stars, the opening of an office in Beverly Hills, and launch of sales in Russia.

However, Parnas struggled to sell PocketSurfers. Then, in January 2007, Apple announced it would release the iPhone, a product that revolutionized the mobile phone and online industries.

Edgetech would report sales of just $61,168 over the first eight months of 2008 and post a $1.3 million net loss, according to filings. It would have 155 million shares outstanding by 2008, an increase of 40 million over two years. The share price would tumble to just $0.02 by the end of 2008.

Peter Murray, who briefly worked at Edgetech in 2007, told RFE/RL he had concerns about the stories Parnas was peddling about the company. "None of it was even close to true other than that there was a device and a penny stock," Murray said.

A court sketch of Lev Parnas at an arraignment hearing in New York last month.

A court sketch of Lev Parnas at an arraignment hearing in New York last month.

Murray said he was led to believe that Parnas had a fortress of about $30 million earned from his penny-stock brokerage that he could tap to grow Edgetech.

Some investors accused Parnas of pumping up Edgetech stock through the tidal wave of press releases. Parnas's cousin Alex Bolbirer owned about 8 percent of the company's stock in 2006, filings show.

"The company is a scam. They have a great story, but it's just that: a story. Lev Parnas is a former stockbroker and knows what the hell he's doing here. If you can get out, do it. They may pump this baby again, but it's all smoke and mirrors. So, you're playing with fire!!" said an anonymous person in a post on the stock investor board Investorhub in January 2007.

BuzzFeed said the Orlando FBI began to look into a case of possible stock manipulation with Edgetech in 2008, but the government did not pursue charges.

After Edgetech was a flop, Parnas set up Fraud Guarantee with David Correia, who was also charged last month in the scheme to funnel money to politicians. Parnas said on his company website that he set up Fraud Guarantee, which seeks to protect "other investors from loss due to fraud," after being a "victim" himself.

'Miami-Based Financiers'

Grinberg said he and Parnas went their own ways after Program Trading.

Grinberg has in recent years invested in several companies alongside Charles Arnold -- a well-known penny-stock promoter from Florida.

In a 1998 article, the Barron's financial newspaper exposed Arnold's investment in a company tied to Ivana Trump called Tel-Com Wireless Cable TV.

Shortly after the article was published, Michael Vax -- the same individual arrested along with Parnas's childhood friend Koifman in 2013 for stock fraud -- and his brother Boris visited several individuals they believed may have been the source of the story.

The Russian brothers allegedly demanded compensation for any financial loss Arnold may have suffered, Barron's reported.

OTC Markets Research, a firm that specializes in analyzing penny stocks, said in a report last year that Grinberg, Arnold, and three other investors from southern Florida -- whom it collectively calls "the Miami Financiers" -- have a history of teaming up in penny stocks like Life Clips to use them "as their own personal ATM machines."

The research firm said in its note that Life Clips had issued "false and misleading press releases" to help pump up the stock so the Miami Financiers could dump their holdings on the market.

Life Clips CEO Huey Long stepped down in November 2017, saying he could not run the company in the interest of all shareholders and had not been paid for several months.

"Unfortunately, the Miami-based convertible note holders continue to strengthen their grip on the company. As a result, I am no longer comfortable leading or certifying SEC documents on behalf of the company," he said in a statement.

 

 

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1 hour ago, coorslite21 said:

And then let's look at Parnas.....is he credible.

 

He's Rudy's guy, part of The Boca Bunch and Donald's club house is right in the middle of it all... This looks bad for all involved... JMHO

 

B/A

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