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Terminally Ill Florida Judge Wasn’t Replaced and Litigants Were Never Told of His Permanent Paid Absence

A terminally ill Hillsborough County circuit court judge remained on the job, drawing a paycheck for years, even though he was no longer able to conduct hearings or issue rulings.

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LIF COMMENT

When you’re suspended by the Florida Bar, the lawyer is mandated to notify all his or her clients or face further discipline, including disbarment. Apparently that rule does not apply to Judges, who can be ghosts on the bench for years.

Hillsborough judge too ill to conduct hearings assigned more than 1,600 cases, ruled in none

Dozens of cases assigned after his death
MAR 14, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAR 17, 2022

TAMPA, Fla. — A terminally ill Hillsborough County circuit court judge remained on the job, drawing a paycheck for years, even though he was no longer able to conduct hearings or issue rulings. The ABC Action News I-Team uncovered how the situation developed and why some say a resulting backlog in his courtroom led to justice being denied.

“He was a lawyer’s kind of judge. He would let the lawyers try their case,” said Hillsborough County Chief Judge Ronnie Ficarrotta, describing his friend and colleague Judge Carl Hinson.

Hinson’s portrait now hangs in the county’s ceremonial courtroom, following his death on December 3, 2021.

Those close to Hinson said he valiantly battled brain cancer for years. But some people who had cases assigned to his courtroom said they were never officially notified he was ill.

“I didn’t even know what he looked like”

“In my case, there were no orders from Judge Hinson whatsoever. I never had a single order issued by him,” said Angela Debose.

Debose, who has a law degree from the Stetson School of Law, filed pro se lawsuits seeking employment records and emails from her former employer, the University of South Florida.

“My cases just languished. There were motions filed that were pending for long periods of time,” Debose said.

Angela Debose hired a private investigator after hearing the judge in her case was incapacitated

Angela Debose hired a private investigator after hearing the judge in her case was incapacitated
She said she heard rumors Judge Hinson was incapacitated and hired private investigator Kim Caliendo, who investigated and determined Hinson was no longer hearing cases.

“I didn’t even know what he looked like. Is that crazy?” said Lesa Martino.

Martino said she faced frustration while trying to fight a foreclosure lawsuit after her father’s guardian sued her for slander and won a $160,000 judgment.

She said she learned Judge Hinson was terminally ill from social media.

“I actually found that out from somebody on Facebook who saw my case and they said did you know Judge Hinson is on medical leave with cancer? I was like… I didn’t even know that,” Martino said.

Lesa Martino says she was never informed that the judge in her civil case was sick or had died

Lesa Martino says she was never informed that the judge in her civil case was sick or had died

Chief Judge Ficarrotta recalled hearing about Hinson’s serious diagnosis shortly before Hinson was transferred from family court into the civil division.

“Right when he got assigned is when he got sick,”

Ficarrotta said.

“I believe it was 2019. I don’t have the exact date, but I believe it was probably right around 2019.”

More than 1,600 cases were assigned, but Judge ruled in none

During the 23 months that Hinson served in the circuit civil division starting in January 2020, the state paid him $313,000.

About 16,000 cases are filed in Hillsborough County Civil Circuit Court each year.

But the I-Team was not able to find a single hearing he attended or an order he actually signed. According to records the I-Team obtained from the Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts, about 1,620 civil cases were assigned to Judge Hinson’s division before his death.

Those cases include contract disputes, construction defects, car crash injuries, medical malpractice, and other cases in which damage claims are more than $30,000.

Martino said she saw multiple judges in her case.

”There was a Judge Taylor, there was Judge Barton, there were all these senior judges showing up in the place,”

Martino said.

Hillsborough County Chief Judge Ronnie Ficarrotta said his goal was for Judge Hinson to get better and return to work.

“We used other judges on the floor to cover for him. Other judges would step up and hear his docket, then when it became clear he was going to be out for an extended period, we brought in senior judges,” Ficarrotta said.

Hillsborough County Chief Judge Ronnie Ficarrotta said his goal was for Judge Hinson to get better and return to work.

Senior judges are retired judges allowed to fill in for judges on a part-time basis when they are on temporary leave, away at conferences, or trying to clear backlogs of cases.

The I-Team asked Ficarrotta if he considered appointing a permanent replacement in Hinson’s division when it became clear his illness was not getting better.

“I don’t think it ever gets to that. My goal with Carl was I wanted him to get better and come back to work. That is what I wanted. And I was a true believer that he would be able to do that, despite the serious diagnosis that he faced,” Ficarrotta said.

Orders issued, cases assigned after judge’s death

In one of the first cases assigned to Hinson after he was moved into the civil division, the docket showed 78 entries filed by attorneys over nearly two years, but no orders were issued until December 8, 2021 — five days after Hinson’s death.

Another order filed with the court 10 days after Hinson died appeared to bear his signature.

“There was just a human error, a mistake made and those auto-generated orders went out with judge Hinson’s signature,”

Ficarrotta said.

On the Hillsborough County Court directory, Hinson’s page was still active in March 2022, more than three months after his death.

It notified parties “there will be no in-person hearings until further notice.”

“I would have hoped by now it would have been updated,” Ficarrotta said.

“His name’s right there on the judiciary directory. He continued to be assigned cases even after his death,” Debose said.

Records show more than 30 cases were assigned to Hinson on or after December 3.

Debose said she tried to get action long before Hinson died.

“I contacted the chief judge and said if he lacks capacity to rule or to decide these cases, you’re required to involuntarily terminate or retire him. I need a new judge assigned to my cases,” Debose said.

She said she didn’t receive a response.

“What’s most important is the administration of justice”

Ficarrotta said he doesn’t believe any of the litigants with cases in his courtroom were short-changed in any way.

“I really don’t think so. The litigants really don’t get to choose who their judge is,” Ficarrotta said.

Dr. Terri Day, who is a professor and Associate Dean at Barry School of Law in Orlando, believes the situation should have been handled differently.

“As sympathetic as it is when a judge is ill, what’s most important is the administration of justice. And the caseload and the parties,” Day said.

“The code of judicial conduct requires that supervising judges, if they know that a judge is not capable of performing his or her duties, must take reasonable measures to remove the judge, to assign different judges to the cases,” she said.

Lesa Martino said she wishes that had happened in her case.

“I should have been assigned a permanent judge. Same judge at every hearing. It was very unfair. It was just chaos, really,” Martino said.

“We wanted him to come back to work. That was what our goal was,” Ficarrotta.

Records show Hinson retained his salary, benefits, and a supplemental life insurance policy that paid out three times his $162,000 salary upon death.

Hinson continued to receive a paycheck nearly two years after he became sick. His annual salary was more than $160,000 a year.

“He’s not my employee. He’s an elected constitutional officer. So yes, he remained on the payroll until his untimely passing,” Ficarrotta said.

Hinson continued to receive a paycheck nearly two years after he became sick. His annual salary was more than $160,000 a year.

“I couldn’t quarrel with being empathetic and somehow helping the family or helping the judge. But you don’t do it at the expense of litigants,” Debose said.

“The judge has to perform the duties. The reason he or she cannot does not matter,” Associate Dean Day said.

The county’s judicial nominating commission started the process of choosing a new judge to complete Judge Hinson’s term.

The commission will submit recommendations to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will choose his replacement in the coming weeks.

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First Amendment

Gov. Ron DeSantis Is Aligned With Totalitarianism and His Laws Confirm He’s “The Unwanted Dictator”

The Governor of Florida wants to be the President of the United States and The People’s Liberty and Free Speech Rights are being Quashed. Say No, Citizens.

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What are the 5 characteristics of totalitarianism?

1.  A one-party state where one party has a monopoly on all political activity.
2. A state ideology upheld by the ruling party that is given status as the only authority.
3. State information monopoly that controls mass media for distribution of official truth.
4. State controlled economy with major economic entities under the control of the state.
5. Ideological terror that turns economic or professional actions into crimes. Violators are exposed to prosecution and to ideological persecution.

You Can Apply a Checkmark Against Gov. Ron Desantis.

The Unwanted Dictator Fits “This Bill”.

Florida Bans Residential Picketing with “Intent to Harass or Disturb” — but What Exactly Does That Mean?

A content-neutral ban on all residential picketing would be constitutional; but the “intent to harass or disturb” limitation may make the law unconstitutional or ineffective.

MAY 17, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 19, 2022

The law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis yesterday, provides:

(1) As used in this section, the term “dwelling” means a building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more families.

(2) It is [a misdemeanor] for a person to picket or protest before or about the dwelling of any person with the intent to harass or disturb that person in his or her dwelling….

(4) Before a person may be arrested for a violation of this section, a law enforcement officer … must go as near to the person as may be done with safety and shall command any person picketing or protesting before or about the dwelling of a person to immediately and peaceably disperse. If any such person does not thereupon immediately and peaceably disperse, he or she may be arrested for a violation of this section.

Gov. DeSantis Brags About Having the Biggest Surplus of Funds… LIF knows How That is Possible. Theft.

Now a flat ban on all “focused picketing taking place solely in front of a particular residence” would be constitutional, as the Court expressly held in Frisby v. Schultz (1988), interpreting an ordinance that used the “before or about” language.

(In Carey v. Brown (1980), the Court had held that a content-based residential picketing ban was unconstitutional, but Frisby held that content-neutral ones are fine.)

But this statute wouldn’t ban all such residential picketing, but only picketing

“with the intent to harass or disturb.”

I appreciate the desire to narrow the ordinance;

consider Justice Stevens’ dissent in Frisby, which faulted the ordinance for making it a crime

“for a fifth grader to carry [a] sign” outside a friend’s home saying, “Get well Charlie—our team needs you.”

But I think this attempt to narrow it might actually make it unconstitutionally content-based, unconstitutionally vague, or perhaps effectively meaningless.

The problem is that the ordinance doesn’t define “harass,” and the closest state law analog—the Florida stalking statute—defines “harass” to “mean[] to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”

What counts as a “legitimate purpose”?

The stalking cases haven’t set forth a categorical test, and indeed acknowledge its uncertainty (and circularity):

Whether the purpose for contact is “legitimate” is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the term “legitimate” seems to be lacking a precise definition.

However, courts have generally held that contact is legitimate when there is a reason for the contact other than to harass the victim.

But they have recognized that a good range of communication, including communication to a person and not just about the person, is viewed as having a “legitimate purpose.”

Indeed, One Florida appellate case made clear that a wife’s “contact[ing her husband’s lover] by phone and by messages and ‘friend’ requests on Facebook” to “tell[ the lover] to stay away from [the husband]” was a legitimate purpose.

Another held the same as to a girlfriend warning her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend to “stay away” from him.

A third held that calling one’s daughter’s dance team coach to complain about the “daughter’s participation in a dance team competition” “was a legitimate purpose.”

A fourth held the same about “six text messages” “asking him to repay $10,000.”

It seems that

protesting outside someone’s home to tell the person to vote a particular way on a political proposal

(if the person is a legislator)

or to stop performing abortions

(if the person is an abortion provider)

or to change corporate policy

(if the person is a business executive)

would likewise be a “legitimate purpose” under that term.

(The Florida stalking law also specifically says that another element of the stalking statute, “course of conduct,” “does not include constitutionally protected activity such as picketing or other organized protests,” but that is not itself within the definition of “harass” in that stalking law.)

It thus seems to me that there are three options here:

An intent to communicate to the picketed person that one thinks his behavior is improper (whether having an affair, failing to repay money, acting a particular way as a dance coach, or doing anything else) is a “legitimate purpose,” in which case the “intent to harass” branch of the law would do little about residential picketing.

An intent to communicate to the picketed person that one thinks his behavior is improper is not a “legitimate purpose”; but where is that in the statute, especially given how “legitimate purpose” has been defined in the cases under the Florida stalking statute?

An intent to communicate to the picketed person that one thinks his behavior is improper is sometimes a “legitimate purpose” and sometimes not a legitimate purpose, depending on whether one is communicating about something one has a legitimate interest in (e.g., the target’s having an affair with one’s husband).

But that would likely be unconstitutionally vague, and likely unconstitutionally content-based.

Gov. DeSantis Attended the January Orlando Federalist Society meeting where for the first time, Media was Banned for the speech by a Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Of course, the law also bans residential picketing with the intent to disturb, which might potentially be much broader.

But that term appears to be entirely undefined within Florida law, which further suggests that it might be unconstitutionally vague.

(I did find one other Florida statute that spoke of “harass[ing] or disturb[ing],” but that had to do with manatees.)

Would, say, picketing outside a legislator’s home aiming at persuading the legislator to vote a particular way be viewed as intent to disturb, or as intent to persuade?

What if there’s evidence that the real purpose for the picketing was to draw media attention?

More broadly, the Supreme Court held in Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015) that statutory distinctions that “defin[e] regulated speech by its function or purpose” may be content-based, presumably if the function or purpose relates to the content of the speech.

And since speech said with “intent to disturb” would often disturb precisely because of its disturbing content, that would mean the statute is content-based; as I mentioned, the Court has held that content-based restrictions on residential picketing are content-based.

Nor can one respond by saying that all residential picketing is inherently intentionally disturbing because it intentionally intrudes on the target’s privacy:

After all, the law doesn’t ban all residential picketing, but only residential picketing conducted “with the intent to harass or disturb that person in his or her dwelling,” which suggests that the legislature views some residential picketing as intentionally disturbing and some as not.

So it looks like, by trying to limit the scope of the residential picketing ban, the Florida Legislature might have either made it unconstitutional or ineffective.

Perhaps this is a flaw in the Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence; again, consider Justice Stevens’ view, both in his Frisby dissent and in his Carey dissent, that content discrimination that narrows the scope of such laws is a virtue and not a vice.

Indeed, Justice Stevens’s dissent in Frisby suggested that the better approach is for such laws to be limited “to conduct that unreasonably interferes with the privacy of the home and does not serve a reasonable communicative purpose”—something that might be pretty close to the Florida “intent to harass” language.

But Justice Stevens was dissenting, and for better or worse the majority opinion, with its insistence on content neutrality, is the law.

NRA's Marion Hammer Sponsored the Bill

Investigation concludes Marion Hammer must disclose NRA money for lobbying

AUG 23, 2019 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 19, 2022

The Office of Legislative Services Friday ordered powerful gun lobbyist Marion Hammer to refile quarterly lobbying compensation reports for the past four years to reflect income from the National Rifle Association.

Those amended reports have been submitted and Senate President Bill Galvano said he considers the case closed.

Two Democratic lawmakers filed formal complaints in May about Hammer’s quarterly compensation reports.

They charged she failed to fully disclose how much money she was paid to lobby the Legislature on gun issues.

Hammer formed Unified Sportsmen of Florida in 1975 as an NRA affiliate to promote Second Amendment rights at the Capitol. She is its only employee.

OLS General Counsel Audrey H. Moore concluded that Hammer as an “in-house” employee did not have to report lobbying income from Unified Sportsmen but added the money the NRA gives to the group must be disclosed.

Gov. DeSantis openly brags at a TPPF Conference in Texas, funded by Koch Industries, Big Tobacco et al how he manipulated the judges assigned to the courts for his own political agenda.

In a statement, Hammer said it’s never been a secret she was a lobbyist.

She said she sought out and relied on advice from the General Counsel of the Florida Senate that she didn’t need to fulfill any additional filing requirements.

“I, of course, am pleased that this matter has been concluded,”

she said.

“However, I am less than happy that the officials handling and commenting on these matters did not highlight the important point that I did not do anything wrong except rely on the advice of counsel.”

Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, filed the formal complaints, they said, to get a better idea of who is driving a gun agenda in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Broward County, Vice Chair of the ÊSenate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development speaks at a news conference held in opposition to Senate Bill 7096 in the fourth floor Capitol rotunda Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

Thurston criticized the Rules Committee’s decision to refer the complaint to OLS and not conduct a full investigation.

“Had the Rules Committee followed this mandatory procedure, the people of Florida would have witnessed a much more transparent process, allowing both Republicans and Democrats to probe the facts, bring forward the evidence, and arrive at the appropriate conclusion,” said Thurston.

“The report issued today serves as a bitter reminder of the powerful grip Ms. Hammer and the NRA continue to maintain over the Republican-led Florida legislature,” said Thurston.

Tax filings reveal that Unified Sportsmen raises more than $200,000 annually from its membership but do not show how much money was spent to influence lawmakers.

Eskamani said the House refused to hear nearly a dozen of what she called common-sense gun legislation in 2019 and points to Hammer as the culprit for the silence.

“The public deserves to have an understanding of her level of influence and where her resources come from,”

said Eskamani about the legendary lobbyist credited with creation of the concealed-carry permit and stand-your-ground law.

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Appellate Circuit

God Goes in Front of Me and Makes the Crooked Straight and I Get to Keep My Pension

Ex-Inmate and Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is Confident of Her Plea Deal Keepin’ Her out of Jail and Ending Her Criminal Case.

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Former congresswoman Corrine Brown to take plea deal
Brown faced retrial this fall on federal fraud charges

May 17, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: May 17, 2022

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former congresswoman Corrine Brown is set to change her plea Wednesday in a federal case that involves charges of fraud and conspiracy, avoiding a retrial that was scheduled to take place this fall.

Tuesday morning, News4JAX reporter Jim Piggott spoke with Corrine Brown by phone. She said everything will come out in court tomorrow.

“I want you to know, God has been good to me,”

Brown said.

“I just talked to my pastor and I know that He goes in front of me and make the crooked straight. That’s all I can tell you, He’s good.”

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is set to change her plea Wednesday in a federal case that involves charges of fraud and conspiracy, avoiding a retrial that was scheduled to take place this fall.

Brown was indicted in 2016 on charges that included conspiracy, wire fraud, and tax fraud, on accusations that she used contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses.

Brown was convicted on some of the charges in May 2017, and began a five-year prison sentence in January 2018. Brown was released in April 2020, due to coronavirus concerns.

Following her conviction, Brown appealed the guilty verdict, arguing the trial judge wasn’t justified in replacing a juror who said the Holy Spirit told him Brown was not guilty.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals initially upheld Brown’s conviction.

Brown’s attorneys then asked for a rehearing before the full 11th Circuit, known as an “en banc” hearing. In May 2021, the appellate court reversed the conviction with a 7-4 decision, sending the case back to the district court for a potential retrial.

In October 2021, we learned that prosecutors planned to re-try Brown on the felony counts she faced in her 2017 trial.

At the time, we learned prosecutors had already extended her a plea deal to avoid being retried and the possibility of a return to prison, an offer she rejected at the time.

Following the appointment of a new defense team, Brown’s retrial was set to take place in September of 2022.

News4JAX Jim Piggott spoke with attorney Curtis Fallgatter,

“(Jim) Are you surprised at all?

(Curtis) A little bit, but not terribly because of the age of the case, the complexity of the case, the number of issues, reversal on appeal issues about a retrial, can I get a conviction, the age of Brown.”

The court document indicating that Brown will be changing her plea does not indicate what charges she may be pleading guilty to, or what sentence could potentially be imposed.

Fallgatter doesn’t believe Brown will serve any additional time.

He said she would not agree to that, and the agreement should be an end to the case.

Brown is getting her pension, and that likely will not change.

YOUR DONATION(S) WILL HELP US:

• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

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Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



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Bankers

When the World’s Bankers and Governments Are Behavin’ Like Thieves and Criminals, It Really Is Time to Object, Vociferously

The appalling greed and corruption is playing out live since 2008 and without any accountability to the people. One Percenters are completely immune and laughing At You.

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Ukrainian who made appearance in Trump impeachment saga accused by U.S. of stealing, laundering billions

AUG 6, 2020 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

The Justice Department on Thursday accused a Ukrainian oligarch who has been considered an ally of Ukraine’s president of stealing billions of dollars from a bank he once owned, then using a vast array of companies to launder that money in the United States and all over the world.

In a civil forfeiture complaint seeking to seize commercial properties in Kentucky and Texas, the Justice Department alleged that Ihor Kolomoisky and his business partner, Gennadiy Boholiubov, stole so much from PrivatBank that Ukraine’s national bank had to give the institution a $5.5 billion bailout “to stave off economic crisis for the whole country.”

Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, has ties to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and he played a role in the events that led to President Trump’s impeachment last year. He made a fortune in the rough-and-tumble capitalism that swept Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse, amassing assets including airlines and financial institutions, and created a larger-than-life image for himself, going by the nickname “Benya,” and keeping a shark aquarium in his office.

Kolomoisky and Boholiubov were the two major owners of PrivatBank before it was nationalized in response to the fraud, the Justice Department said, and the men basically used it as a personal account to build a business empire in the United States. They requested money from PrivatBank — which they always received because they were owners — then moved the funds through a network of companies to “thoroughly disguise their nature, source, ownership, and control,” the Justice Department alleged.

Experts have expressed increasing concern that U.S. real estate — including factories and facilities important to American industry — has become a magnet for foreign money, including proceeds of criminal activities abroad. Among Kolomoisky’s and Boholiubov’s purchases were more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate in Ohio; steel plants in Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan; a cellphone manufacturing plant in Illinois; and commercial real estate in Texas, the Justice Department alleged. The forfeiture complaints sought to seize a roughly 19.5-acre office park in Dallas and the PNC Plaza building in Louisville.

Michael J. Sullivan, a lawyer for Kolomoisky, said in an email: “Mr. Kolomoisky emphatically denies the allegations in the complaints filed by the Department of Justice.” The allegations, which are not criminal charges, are similar to those in a lawsuit filed by the bank in a Delaware court. A lawyer for Boholiubov did not reply to an email seeking comment.

In a statement written in Russian, Kolomoisky said all the money used to purchase the U.S. properties was his own, received through a deal made with a mining company in 2007 and 2008 and from other businesses that banked with Privatbank.

Kolomoisky also has long been facing a criminal probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland for possible money laundering. As a part of that case, the FBI raided the office of Optima Management Group in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday, as well as an Optima office in the Southeast Financial Center building in Miami.

In court documents, the Justice Department alleged Thursday that two Miami-based business associates of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov’s — Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber — helped acquire and manage the oligarchs’ holdings in the United States, which often bear some version of the name “Optima.” Optima Ventures at one point became the “largest holder of commercial real estate in Cleveland,” using stolen funds to buy major downtown office buildings and a hotel, the Justice Department alleged.

Last year, Marc Kasowitz, a New York lawyer who also represents Trump, signed on to represent Kolomoisky and Boholiubov in the Delaware case. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Under Ukraine’s last president, Petro Poroshenko, the government nationalized Privatbank, alleging that Kolomoisky and one of his business partners had defrauded the bank of billions of dollars. Kolomoisky denied those charges but decamped from Kyiv to Israel, where he also holds citizenship. He retained political power in Ukraine through his business holdings, which include a major Ukrainian television station.

Kolomoisky is seen as an ally to Zelensky, who was an actor before his election, starring in a comedy show that aired on Kolomoisky’s network. Zelensky’s election was widely seen as a boon for Kolomoisky, particularly after the new president made Kolomoisky’s personal lawyer the head of his administration. Some in the United States were suspicious of Zelensky’s ties to the mogul, thinking the connection ran counter to Zelensky’s promises to pursue an anti-corruption and reformist agenda.

Since then, however, Zelensky has not supported returning control of Privatbank to the oligarch, and he fired that top aide. Still, Kolomoisky has been comfortable enough with Ukraine’s current leadership that he returned from a self-imposed exile in Tel Aviv and is again based in Kyiv, where he maintains connections to members of the presidential administration.

In spring 2019, when Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani embarked on a mission to press Zelensky to assist Trump by opening politically charged investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Giuliani’s associates met with Kolomoisky to request that Giuliani get a sit-down with the rising Ukrainian politician.

Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with Kolomoisky in April 2019 in Tel Aviv, and, by all accounts, the meeting did not go well.

Giuliani associates claimed to have sway with both foreign billionaires and Trump administration officials

After the meeting, the two ­Florida-based business executives accused Kolomoisky of physically threatening them and filed a lawsuit against him in Ukraine. Parnas and Fruman, who assisted Giuliani in his Ukraine project, were charged in the United States with campaign finance violations last year. They have denied any wrongdoing.

Giuliani has said he provided legal advice to Parnas and Fruman in their fight against Kolomoisky. He also tweeted repeatedly about his displeasure with Kolomoisky in May 2019 just as he was pressuring Zelensky to assist Trump with a Biden investigation. At one point, Giuliani complained that Zelensky was being advised by “Kolomoisky’s representatives and enemies of President Trump.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Kolomoisky has told The Post that during the Tel Aviv meeting, Parnas and Fruman claimed that they could get top U.S. officials, including Vice President Pence and then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to travel to Ukraine around the time of Zelensky’s May 2019 inauguration — if Kolomoisky paid them several hundred thousand dollars. Kolomoisky did not pay the money, instead throwing the two men out of his office, his lawyer has said.

The attorney, Bruce Marks, told The Post that Kolomoisky had predicted to friends at the time: “This is going to end up in a bad scandal.”

Ukraine arrests ex-PrivatBank official as U.S. prioritizes criminal probe of former owners

FEB 26, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

The National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has arrested the former deputy chairman of a Ukrainian bank at the heart of an FBI criminal investigation as he attempted to fly abroad in the latest sign Kyiv is taking steps to tackle corruption and lawlessness.

Volodymyr Yatsenko was detained at Boryspil Airport in Kyiv on February 22 after investigators forced the pilot of the private jet he was traveling on to land, the bureau announced in a tweet.

Mr. Yatsenko, who was on his way to Vienna after reportedly being tipped off about his arrest, was charged with the embezzlement of funds at PrivatBank, once the nation’s largest lender.

More arrests of management could follow, the Kyiv Post reported.

The FBI is investigating the two owners of PrivatBank – Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov – in connection with accusations that more than $5 billion was stolen from the lender through fraudulent loans and that the money was then laundered.

In a move that made international headlines, Ukraine was forced to nationalize PrivatBank in 2016 and pump more than $5 billion into the lender in order to stave off its bankruptcy.

The U.S. accuses Messrs. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov of using some of the laundered proceeds to buy assets in the U. S., ranging from metals companies to commercial properties, with the help of two American associates based in Miami.

The Justice Department last year filed three civil forfeiture lawsuits in a Florida court against a U.S. real estate holding controlled by the two tycoons and run by the associates.

However, a judge agreed last week with a Justice Department request to temporarily suspend the civil forfeiture proceedings amid concerns it could harm the criminal investigation against the Ukrainian businessmen and their two American partners.

“Allowing [the tycoons] to conduct discovery would expose the identities of witnesses who have provided and will provide information and testimony in both the civil forfeiture actions and the criminal investigation,” the Justice Department said in its February 19 filing.

“If that occurs, the confidential informants may cease providing information, and, to the extent they are not reachable through process in the United States, they may make themselves unavailable for future testimony. Potential sources of information who have not yet been interviewed by the government would likely be deterred from coming forward” the Justice Department said in its filing.

The tycoons deny the accusations and neither Ukraine nor the United States has filed criminal charges against them.

Mr. Kolomoisky is one of the most influential tycoons in Ukraine and the U.S. government’s investigation into his activities is being closely followed.

The billionaire owns key media, energy, and metals assets and is believed to have outsized influence over the administration of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr. Kolomoisky’s TV stations backed Mr. Zelenskyy’s successful presidential bid.

The U.S., one of Ukraine’s biggest backers financially and militarily, has repeatedly expressed concern about oligarchic influence over the nation’s government and economy.

Washington has also complained about the lack of investigations into corrupt tycoons and officials and has tied some aid to improvements in judicial reform.

The arrest of Mr. Yatsenko, who was flying on a private plane owned by Mr. Kolomoisky, is the latest in a series of moves by Kyiv to tackle cases that resonate with the U.S.

Mr. Zelenskyy last week approved sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk, a tycoon and lawmaker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Medvedchuk was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2014 for undermining democracy in Ukraine.

On February 2, Mr. Zelenskyy sanctioned three television stations believed to be owned by Mr. Medvedchuk. In late January he announced an investigation into Ukrainian individuals accused of interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.

The moves come after President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20. Mr. Biden knows Ukraine well, having served as the point man to Kyiv while serving as vice president from 2009 to 2017.

Political analysts say Mr. Zelenskyy is seeking to win over the Biden administration after a difficult relationship with the Trump administration caused by the 2019 impeachment investigation.

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