MIAMI — A prominent Florida lobbying firm, a GOP fundraiser in Tallahassee and a donor to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were subpoenaed in recent weeks by federal prosecutors in New York investigating two South Florida businessmen whose work for President Donald Trump’s personal attorney has placed them near the center of a congressional impeachment inquiry.
Ballard Partners, a powerhouse firm founded in Tallahassee by Republican lobbyist and Trump confidant Brian Ballard, was subpoenaed recently by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York investigating Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, naturalized citizens accused of funneling illegal foreign money into U.S. campaigns.
Subpoenas also went to South Florida businessman Paul Okoloko and, according to CNN, professional fundraiser Meredith O’Rourke.
There is no evidence that any of the recipients of the subpoenas are suspected of wrongdoing.
The subpoenas, first reported by the New York Times and CNN, shed new light on the ongoing investigation into Parnas and Fruman and the extent of their activities in their home state. At least one of the subpoenas sought records on Fruman, Parnas and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.
A spokesman for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.
Following the report by the New York Times, an attorney representing Ballard Partners confirmed to the Miami Herald that the firm had received a federal subpoena out of the Southern District of New York. The Times reported that the subpoena was issued by investigators looking into Parnas and Fruman, who pleaded not guilty last month to charges that they funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal and foreign money into U.S. state and federal campaigns.
Parnas, originally from Ukraine, and Fruman, born in Belarus, have also been subpoenaed by three congressional committees for documents related to their efforts on behalf of Trump and Giuliani to pressure the Ukranian government to investigate the president’s political rivals — the issue at the crux of the ongoing impeachment investigation.
“Ballard Partners is cooperating with a United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York investigation,” William W. Taylor III, an attorney representing the firm, said in a statement issued to the New York Times. “It has received a subpoena and is complying.”
Ballard, who was introduced to Parnas at a South Florida Trump fundraiser in 2016, is one of the top lobbyists in Tallahassee and Washington and a prominent fundraiser for Trump. Ballard Partners paid Parnas a total of $45,000 for the referral of an international client, which Taylor now identifies as the Turkish government.
Another subpoena was sent to Okoloko, an executive of an African fertilizer company who donated $75,000 last year to the Republican Party of Florida and a political committee supporting DeSantis, then a Republican member of Congress.
Okoloko, who like Parnas lists a Boca Raton address, previously rejected a pitch from Parnas to invest in his Fraud Guarantee company. Parnas, according to people who had conversations with him, frequently pitched potential investors on his company, which reportedly paid Giuliani $500,000 for consulting.
A third subpoena, according to CNN, went to O’Rourke, a Tallahassee-based GOP fundraiser who helped raise money for the Trump-affiliated Super PAC America First Action. Parnas and Fruman donated $325,000 last year to America First Action through a company, Global Energy Producers, that federal prosecutors say was a shell company used to hide the source of their political donations to state and federal campaigns.
Neither O’Rourke nor Okoloko could be reached by phone or text.
Attorneys for Parnas did not respond to an email. Fruman’s attorney, Todd Blanche, declined to comment.
Prosecutors say Parnas and Fruman schemed to steer illegal money into state and federal campaigns in an attempt to purchase influence and pursue marijuana businesses around the country. They’re also accused of lobbying on behalf of one or more Ukrainian government officials to try and have the U.S. ambassador to the country removed.
Florida was not mentioned in the grand jury indictment unsealed early last month prior to Parnas’ and Fruman’s Oct. 9 arrest at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. But they were active in their home state, where they attended Republican fundraisers and sought to network.
Parnas and Fruman pursued a weed business in Florida. And their company, Global Energy Producers, gave a $50,000 contribution last year to the political committee of DeSantis, which disgorged the money after their arrest.
Meanwhile, federal investigators are also reportedly interested in allegations that Parnas and Fruman attempted to steer business to themselves from Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, Naftogaz.
Dale Perry, an American energy businessman active in Europe, told the Miami Herald last month that a Naftogaz executive who met over dinner in Houston with Parnas, Fruman and Florida businessman and GOP donor Harry Sargeant was alarmed at their pitch to steer business to themselves by removing the company’s executive.
Sargeant confirmed he attended the dinner but has adamantly denied being involved in any business scheme. A spokesman told the Miami Herald that Sargeant has no business relationship with Parnas and Fruman, and that he has not been contacted by any investigators.
Parnas has indicated through his attorneys that he’s open to cooperating with House Democrats, who are running impeachment proceedings through the Intelligence Committee. A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment.
Parnas and Fruman are due back in court in New York on Dec. 2.