2 plead not guilty to conspiring with Giuliani associates

David Correia, center, arrives with his lawyers at federal court, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in New York. Correia and Andrey Kukushkin were set to be arraigned Thursday on charges they conspired with associates of Rudy Giuliani to make illegal campaign contributions. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen).

NEW YORK | Two businessmen pleaded not guilty Thursday to conspiring with associates of Rudy Giuliani to make illegal campaign contributions.

David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin are among four men charged with using straw donors to make illegal contributions to politicians they thought could help their political and business interests, including committees supporting President Donald Trump and other Republicans.

Their next court date was set for Dec. 2.

Two other men charged in the case, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, worked with Giuliani to try to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Democrat Joe Biden. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, has said he had no knowledge of illegal donations.

Prosecutors say Correia and Kukushkin teamed with Parnas and Fruman in a separate scheme to make illegal campaign donations to politicians in several states in an attempt to get support for a new recreational marijuana business.

Money for those donations was actually supplied, prosecutors say, by an unidentified foreign national with “Russian roots.”

Officials in California announced they would review the dozen state marijuana distribution licenses granted to a partnership involving Kukushkin to make sure there were no improprieties, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

“We always have concerns when something like that happens, so we want to do our due diligence and look at them,” said Lori Ajax, chief of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.

All the state licenses issued to the partnership of Garib Karapetyan and Kukushkin are provisional permits, Ajax said, pending detailed background checks and disclosure of major investors.

Karapetyan’s attorney, Brad Hirsch, said his clients are in complete compliance with all regulations.

Separately, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg called for an investigation of his city’s permit system to determine how Kukushkin and another businessman obtained nearly one-third of the licenses issued by the city.

All the defendants are U.S. citizens, but Kukushkin and Parnas were born in Ukraine and Fruman in Belarus.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of a defendant’s name in one instance to Parnas, instead of Parnus.