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New York attorney pleads guilty to assisting sanctioned Russian oligarch

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(NEW YORK) — A New York attorney is charged in a scheme to make nearly $4 million in payments to maintain six properties in the United States that were owned by a sanctioned oligarch.

The attorney, Robert Wise, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Manhattan federal court to one count of conspiring to commit international money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

“With today’s guilty plea, Robert Wise has admitted that he misused his position of trust as a lawyer, laundering money to promote sanctions violations by Viktor Vekselberg’s longtime associate, Vladimir Voronchenko,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “This Office is proud to continue its work to enforce the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.”

Vekselberg was among the Russian nationals sanctioned in 2018 over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Beforehand, Vekselberg had acquired six properties in the United States: two apartments on Park Avenue in New York, an estate in Southampton, two apartments on Fisher Island, Florida, and a penthouse apartment also on Fisher Island. The Properties were worth approximately $75 million, prosecutors said.

Voronchenko, Vekselberg’s longtime associate, retained Wise to assist in the acquisition of the properties and to manage the finances, according to prosecutors.

Between June 2018 and March 2022, approximately 25 wire transfers totaling approximately $3.8 million were sent to an account Wise controlled, according to the charging documents. Wise used these funds to make various payments to maintain and service the properties, and, prosecutors said, he did so knowing that he was promoting sanctions violations.

“Admission to the bar carries with it a public trust that attorneys will act with honesty and integrity – a trust that Robert Wise chose to betray in exchange for an easy, illicit paycheck,” said Andrew Adams, director of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force, which handled the case.

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