NEW YORK -- A Florida man accused of conspiring with associates of Rudy Giuliani to make illegal campaign contributions made an initial court appearance Wednesday after flying to Kennedy Airport in New York City to turn himself in.
David Correia, 44, made a brief appearance before a federal judge in Manhattan, who ordered him released on a $250,000 bond.
Jeffrey Marcus, Correia's lawyer, told the judge his client had been traveling in the Middle East when the news broke last week about the charges, but contacted U.S. authorities to arrange his return and surrender. Correia left the courthouse Wednesday afternoon pulling a large suitcase. He did not comment to reporters. Marcus also declined further comment outside court.
Correia is among four men charged with using straw donors to make illegal contributions to politicians who they thought could help their political and business interests, including a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump.
Two other men charged in the case, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman , worked with Rudy Giuliani to try and get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Democrat Joe Biden.
Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer and a former New York City mayor, has said he had no knowledge of illegal donations and hadn't seen any evidence that Parnas and Fruman did anything wrong.
Prosecutors said Correia, an American-born businessman who owns a home with his wife in West Palm Beach, teamed with Parnas, Fruman and a third man, Andrey Kukushkin, in a separate scheme to make illegal campaign donations to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states in an attempt to get support for a new recreational marijuana business.
Money for those donations was actually supplied, prosecutors said, by a foreign national with "Russian roots." That person has not been named by prosecutors.
All of the defendants are U.S. citizens, but Kukushkin and Parnas were born in Ukraine and Fruman in Belarus.
Parnas and Fruman have a history of business dealings with Giuliani.
Prosecutors say the pair made hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans in 2018 with the intent of lobbying U.S. politicians to oust the country's ambassador to Ukraine. The indictment says their work was done at the request of a Ukrainian official, who prosecutors have not identified.
Correia is listed as the registered agent for a Florida corporation tied to a series of wire transfers that prosecutors allege was part of an elaborate effort to hide the true source of funds used to make some donations.
He posed with then-Rep. Pete Sessions in a 2018 photo taken inside the Texas Republican's Capitol Hill office that Parnas posted on social media with the caption "Hard at work !!"
The Associated Press reported last week that Sessions fits the description in the indictment of a congressman who prosecutors allege was part of a coordinated effort to remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
At least some of the defendants are expected to appear in court Thursday for an arraignment.
Michael Biesecker reported from Washington.