2020 Election

FBI Escalates Investigation Into Ukrainian Oligarch Tied to Florida Democrat

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell / Getty Images

The FBI on Tuesday raided two business entities owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who is closely tied to the husband of freshman Democratic congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

The federal investigation into financial crimes by Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, whose businesses have paid Mucarsel-Powell's husband hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal work in recent years, has been ongoing for at least a year. Kolomoisky in recent years has faced multiple criminal allegations, including embezzlement, bribery, and murder.

Mucarsel-Powell has faced questions on the income earned from her husband's work for Kolomoisky since her first run for Congress in 2018, when she defeated longtime Republican congressman Carlos Curbelo. Mucarsel-Powell has managed to sidestep the issue, but the ramped up probe into Kolomoisky's U.S. businesses could spell trouble as she fights to hold on to the hotly contested south Florida seat in November.

Though her campaign denied that her husband, Robert Powell, ever directly worked for or received payment from Kolomoisky, an investigation by the Miami Herald found that he worked for companies bankrolled by the Ukrainian businessman until a year before his wife decided to run for office. Powell said his decision to end his relationship with the companies had nothing to do with his wife's election.

Financial disclosures filed by Mucarsel-Powell show the work was lucrative—in Powell's final two years of work for Felman Trading Inc., a mining company owned by Kolomoisky, for example, he earned $695,000.

Earlier this year a lawsuit alleged that a Florida businessman who contributed thousands to Mucarsel-Powell's first campaign played a key role in Kolomoisky's illegal business schemes in the United States. The businessman, who worked with Mucarsel-Powell's husband, denied the allegation in a statement to the Daily Beast.

Mucarsel-Powell's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the FBI investigation.

Mucarsel-Powell won her election by fewer than 5,000 votes in 2018 and is one of the most vulnerable freshmen members in the House. The Florida Democrat faced criticism earlier this year after old photos revealing a history of cultural appropriation were unearthed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The primary to determine her opponent will be held on Aug. 18. Among the candidates are former Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez and local firefighter union leader Omar Blanco.