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Gov. Sisolak responds to claims of Russian money influencing Nevada elections

Posted at 11:52 PM, Oct 10, 2019

UPDATE OCT. 11: Gov. Steve Sisolak released the following statement on the issues surrounding the legalized marijuana market and the multi-state agency special task force:

"The Governor is outraged by yesterday’s news that a foreign national attempted to influence Nevada’s elections through a million-dollar laundering scheme in order to gain a marijuana license and enter our legalized market."

"Yesterday’s indictments and their connections to Nevada, in combination with ongoing issues in Nevada’s legalized marijuana industry – such as illegal sales to minors, serious allegations of manipulated lab results, and a licensing process mired in litigation – have led the Governor to expedite regulatory and enforcement measures. Many of these enhanced measures were originally intended to be implemented at the start of the Governor’s Cannabis Compliance Board, but in the interest of time and the public health and safety of Nevadans, the Governor has formed a multi-state agency special task force to root out potential corruption or criminal influences in Nevada's marijuana marketplace, effective immediately. Any marijuana entity – licensed or unlicensed – that violates the law will see swift and severe criminal and regulatory action."

"The Governor is disappointed in the lack of oversight and the inaction from the state over many years that led us to this critical juncture – including the apparent absence of a single criminal referral by the Marijuana Enforcement Division since the inception of licensed marijuana sales, medical or recreational, in Nevada. Governor Sisolak's administration is taking immediate action in order to protect the health and safety of Nevadans, the jobs created by the industry, and the long-term sustainability of education funding generated from the legalized marketplace."

Four Ukrainian nationals allegedly tried to get licenses to operate marijuana businesses here in Nevada, according to an indictment filed Thursday in federal court in New York.

We now know the allegations of the influence peddling that led to the impeachment inquiry against the president stretched all the way to our valley.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are at the center of a web of political intrigue that now extends to Las Vegas.

The same men accused of helping President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, persuade Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden were also allegedly trying to curry favor with Nevada politicians to get into the pot business.

Among them, GOP candidate for Governor Adam Laxalt and Wesley Duncan, who ran for attorney general last year. They are referred to as candidates 1 and 2 in the indictment.

According to the court documents, in July of 2018 Parness, Fruman, two other men named in the indictment and an unnamed foreign national who is a Russian citizen and businessman all "made plans to form a recreational marijuana business that would be funded by Foreign National 1 and required gaining access to retail marijuana licenses in particular states including Nevada."

The indictment goes on to say, "In early September 2018, Parnas, Fruman, Correia, Kukushkin, and Foreign National-1 met in Las Vegas, Nevada to discuss the business venture. While in Las Vegas, Parnas, Fruman, Correia, Kukushkin also attended a fundraiser for a state candidate in Nevada."

But the men missed the deadline for license applications, according to the indictment.

In October, one of the men noted, "They were two months too late to the game unless we change the rules and noted that they needed a particular Nevada state official, the position for which Candidate 1 was running to green light to implement this."

It alleges that donations in the amount of $10,000 were made to both candidates in November.

We reached out to Duncan and Laxalt for a statement. A spokesperson for Laxalt emailed us the following:

Today's indictment states that the defendants concealed the scheme from the candidates, campaigns, federal regulators, and the public. ' Until this morning, like everyone else, Adam was unaware of the illegal activity and he intends to return the donation.