Exclusive: Inside the extramarital affair and cash-fueled double life of Charles McGonigal, the FBI spy hunter charged with taking Russian money

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One morning in October 2017, Allison Guerriero noticed something unusual on the floor of her boyfriend's Park Slope, Brooklyn, apartment: a bag full of cash. There it was, lying next to his shoes, near the futon, the kind of bag that liquor stores give out. Inside were bundles of bills, big denominations bound up with rubber bands. It didn't seem like something he should be carrying around. After all, her boyfriend, Charles F. McGonigal, held one of the most senior and sensitive positions in the FBI.

"Oh, you remember that baseball game?" McGonigal replied, according to Guerriero's recollection. "I made a bet and won."

McGonigal had two high-school-age children and a wife — or "ex-wife" as he sometimes referred to her — back at home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He would return there once or twice a month. But McGonigal had led Guerriero to believe that he was either divorced or soon would be. She didn't question his story, nor did she question the story about the bag full of cash.

A few days before, Guerriero had sat on the couch with McGonigal in the one-room garden sublet to watch McGonigal's Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees. Much later — after Guerriero's cancer diagnosis, their breakup, and McGonigal's retirement from the FBI — McGonigal would be indicted on suspicion of, among other things, accepting $225,000 in cash from a former employee of Albania's intelligence agency. That total includes one $80,000 chunk that was allegedly handed over in a parked car, outside a restaurant, on October 5, 2017. October 5 and 6 also happened to be the days when the Indians beat the Yankees in the first two games of the American League Division Series. Today, Guerriero no longer believes the bag of cash contained winnings from a sports bet.

Guerriero was 44 when they met, a former substitute kindergarten teacher who volunteered for law-enforcement causes and was working as a contractor for a security company while living at home with her father. McGonigal, then 49 years old, had just started his new job at the FBI's New York office.

Guerriero says their affair lasted for a little more than a year. McGonigal's Brooklyn sublet may have been modest, but he lived large. He courted Guerriero at high-end restaurants. He would give her gifts of cash — $500 or $1,000 — for her birthday and for Christmas. He once joked about framing his divorce papers for her, as a Christmas gift, but those papers never materialized. He took her to watch New Jersey Devils hockey games in a private box. She recalls that McGonigal once gave a hundred-dollar bill to a panhandler on the street. "I'm a little better off than him. I can spare a hundred dollars," Guerriero remembers McGonigal saying, after she expressed astonishment.

That day in October wasn't the only time that Guerriero remembers McGonigal carrying large amounts of cash. After he brushed her curiosity aside, she tempered her suspicions. She told herself it was probably "buy money" for a sting operation, or a payoff for one of McGonigal's informants. She had dated federal law-enforcement officials before. She knew not to ask too many questions about work.

"Charlie McGonigal knew everybody in the national security and law-enforcement world," Guerriero said, in an interview with Insider. "He fooled them all. So why should I feel bad that he was able to deceive me?"

The dual indictments lodged against McGonigal earlier this week in New York and Washington, DC, are the culmination of a grand-jury investigation that Insider exclusively reported on last year, and they lay out breathtaking allegations of subterfuge and corruption. But Guerriero says that McGonigal's deceptions extended beyond his duties as a counterintelligence chief and into their personal life. Two sources who knew both McGonigal and Guerriero in New York told Insider that they believed Guerriero's account of the relationship, including her claim that McGonigal had led Guerriero to believe that he was effectively single. And Guerriero's father told Insider that McGonigal would regularly drive to his house, where Guerriero lived, to pick her up.

"I was deceived about it," Guerriero's father said. "He seemed to be a straight shooter. If I'd had known he was married, I would have said something."

Federal prosecutors charged McGonigal with money laundering and making false statements in his mandatory employee disclosures to the FBI. He was also charged with taking money from a representative of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who McGonigal had once himself investigated, in violation of US economic sanctions against Russia; the indictment alleges that Deripaska paid him to investigate a rival oligarch. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

McGonigal was not an ordinary FBI agent. He led the WikiLeaks investigation into Chelsea Manning as well as a search for a Chinese mole inside the CIA. While working at FBI headquarters in Washington, he played a role in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign's Russia contacts that was later dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane.

But it was McGonigal's final FBI job, special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the FBI's New York field office, that was his most important assignment at the bureau. It was his job to find enemy spies and recruit his own.

"New York City is a global center for espionage and counterespionage," says one senior law-enforcement insider who was closely familiar with the specifics of McGonigal's role. "You have visits from foreign business elites and politicians. You have the United Nations. You have ethnic populations. Who runs the pitches to recruit spies from all those other countries? The FBI. So the access you get in that job is extraordinary. It's almost bottomless. So if you're running FBI counterintelligence in New York, you can get your hands on almost anything you want, and you don't always have to make excuses for why you're asking for it."

The impact of the McGonigal indictments is still rippling out through the law-enforcement world. The charges accuse an official at the heart of the Trump-Russia investigation of secretly selling his own access, accepting bundles of cash in surreptitious meetings with someone who had ties to Albanian intelligence. McGonigal, a top-tier member of the city's law-enforcement community, a man who had fully integrated himself into a powerful circle of trust where favors get swapped and sensitive intelligence gets circulated, is accused of himself being on the take. If the indictments are correct, McGonigal was leading a dangerous double life, right under the noses of some of the sharpest cops in America.

But what might be most striking about the case against McGonigal is how cheaply he is alleged to have rented out his law-enforcement powers. One indictment suggests that for $225,000, McGonigal's associates got him to lobby the Albanian prime minister about the awarding of oil-field drilling licenses and then open an FBI investigation connected to a US citizen who had lobbied for one of the prime minister's political opponents. Arranging a meeting for an executive from a Bosnian pharmaceutical company with a US official at the United Nations was said to be a pricier item — $500,000, one indictment claims. It is unclear whether that money ever materialized.

In September 2018, McGonigal left the FBI to work as a vice president at Brookfield Properties, a multibillion-dollar real-estate company. His salary there was most likely higher than what he made inside the government, but it wasn't anywhere near the C-suite or oligarch-scale money that courses through New York's penthouse condos and boardrooms. One law-enforcement source estimated that McGonigal stood to make roughly $300,000 to $350,000 a year, including annual bonuses. "He said he needed to make more money," said Guerriero, who was still in the relationship with McGonigal when he left the FBI. "He had two kids to put through college."

The value that McGonigal is accused of providing — his access and his pull — are clear from the indictments. One of them alleges that he arranged for the daughter of a foreign contact, a college student, to get a VIP tour from the New York City Police Department. The indictment identifies that foreign contact as "Agent-1," an agent of the Russian oligarch Deripaska, former Russian diplomat, and rumored Russian intelligence officer. That description matches Evgeny Fokin, who works for En+, a Deripaska-owned energy company, and was already linked to McGonigal and an associate in a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing from November 2021.

Agent-1's identity remains unconfirmed. Neither Fokin nor En+ responded to requests for comment. A person familiar with the NYPD's arrangement said the daughter was a guest, not an intern. She didn't have independent access to police facilities, they said, and was given no work to do.

Guerriero recalls McGonigal using the FBI's resources for their relationship. Once, they had sex in an SUV that she understood to be federal government property. After she was found to have breast cancer, Guerriero recalls, McGonigal would occasionally send a junior agent in an FBI sedan to give her rides from New Jersey to her cousin's apartment in New York. Despite the ongoing deception about his marital status, McGonigal was "caring, loving, and concerned" during the period of her illness, she says.

In late 2018, McGonigal and Guerriero broke up. She remembers receiving an anonymous and hostile note in the mail. Soon after, McGonigal told her he was still married and had no plans to divorce his wife. "I was shocked," she said. "I was very much in love with him, and I was so hurt." She started drinking heavily to cope. A few months later, Guerriero, after a bout of drinking, dashed off an angry email to William Sweeney, who was in charge of the FBI's New York City bureau, and who, she recalls, had first introduced her to McGonigal. She remembers telling Sweeney in the email that he should look into their extramarital affair, and also McGonigal's dealings in Albania. McGonigal had already befriended Albania's prime minister and traveled to the country extensively, dealings that would appear later in one of his indictments. Guerriero told Insider that she had deleted the email.

Sweeney didn't reply to a request for comment made through Sweeney's current employer, Citigroup. Insider couldn't confirm that Guerriero had sent the email or that Sweeney had received it. Regardless, by November 2021, the FBI was looking into McGonigal. Two agents showed up at Guerriero's door, she says, showed her a picture of McGonigal with the Albanian prime minister, and interviewed her about their interactions. She also received a grand-jury subpoena requesting all of her communications with McGonigal as well as information about any "payments or gifts" he may have given her.

Guerriero acknowledges that the combination of her alcohol abuse and her health problems led to some extreme behavior, including her sending hostile emails to McGonigal's family, the contents of which she says she cannot recall. "I really did go overboard," she said. "I harassed them. I'm not going to deny that. I was horrible to them."

By her own account, Guerriero contacted one of McGonigal's children despite being prohibited from doing so by a court order, an incident that led to her spending the night in a New Jersey jail. The court order stemmed from a 2019 police report, obtained by Insider, that McGonigal's wife, Pamela, filed with the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland. The report states that McGonigal and Guerriero "had a relationship" and that Guerriero had repeatedly harassed her with unwelcome emails and phone calls — including 20 calls in one day — despite her asking Guerriero to stop.

Guerriero confirmed that her contact with the McGonigal family led to a separate restraining order issued in New Jersey. "I am ashamed and embarrassed and sorry for my actions during the time that I was drinking," she said.

Guerriero's troubles worsened in early 2021, when she was badly burned during a fire at her father's house. She asked friends for help through a GoFundMe. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City, whom she knew from law-enforcement circles, let her stay in a guest bedroom. Since then, Guerriero has been a frequent on-air caller for Giuliani's radio shows. She maintains that the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud, a belief pushed by Giuliani that has been repeatedly debunked. "Whatever Giuliani says about the 2020 election is what I believe," she said. During her relationship with McGonigal, Guerriero says, they never talked about politics. "I thought he was apolitical," he said, "which is something I continue to believe."

The FBI declined to address the specifics of Guerriero's story. Instead, it sent a statement from Director Christopher Wray, who said the FBI holds employees to "the highest standard" and treats everyone equally, "even when it is one of our own." Insider spoke with three of McGonigal's former law-enforcement colleagues who expressed shock about the indictments. "It's heartbreaking," said one, who had worked alongside McGonigal at the FBI. "This is an incredible organization filled with truly dedicated men and women. This sets our image and reputation back."

Guerriero's father said his view of the FBI had already been tarnished by the way that McGonigal treated his daughter. "I've always had huge admiration for the FBI," he said. "I idealized the agents that I saw in the movies. I thought these people were gods, that they never did anything wrong. It was so disappointing." He did say, however, that McGonigal had called him after the relationship ended to apologize for his behavior, and that he had accepted McGonigal's apology.

Mattathias Schwartz is a senior correspondent at Insider and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. He can be reached at mschwartz@insider.com and schwartz79@protonmail.com.