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Businessman Lev Parnas speaks in New York after being indicted on money laundering and campaign finance charges stemming from a scheme to oust the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Parnas once bounced a check for $100,000 to former Ravens great Ray Lewis, court records show.
Businessman Lev Parnas speaks in New York after being indicted on money laundering and campaign finance charges stemming from a scheme to oust the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Parnas once bounced a check for $100,000 to former Ravens great Ray Lewis, court records show. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Long before Lev Parnas became a figure of the Ukraine scandal and the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, the Florida businessman enlisted one of Baltimore’s most revered athletes, then-Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, to help sell one of his tech gadgets.

When it came time to pay him, however, Parnas’ company wrote a bad check, resulting in a lawsuit from the bank and a judgment against the tech company for more than $150,000. The sour deal emerged as a surprising side note in the controversy surrounding Parnas and other associates of the president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani.

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Parnas, 47, is alleged to have helped Giuliani try to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. A criminal case against Parnas and three other centers on alleged violations of campaign finance laws. Agents arrested him last month as he prepared to board an international flight with a one-way ticket.

The case has drawn attention to Parnas’ wide-ranging business dealings, including his pitch with the Ravens linebacker to launch a hand-held device for fantasy football.

“Our relationship with Ray Lewis has given us the opportunity to launch the world’s first mobile fantasy football device as well as the chance to help children through both of our charitable foundations,” Parnas said in a news release from February 2008.

Lewis did not return a message through a Ravens spokesman Monday.

The men were pitching what they called The Ray Lewis Fantasy Football Edge, a device made by Parnas’ Florida company Edgetech International Inc. The device was touted for sending users with one click to a Ray Lewis website and giving players the ability to manage their fantasy football teams from anywhere, anytime.

A portion of sales was supposed to benefit Lewis’ nonprofit foundation.

“I would like to thank Edgetech International for continuing to support my charitable efforts,” Lewis said in the news release. “I am excited to launch this new hot product that gives us another opportunity to help children in need."

Records in the Allen County Superior Court of Indiana show the deal quickly went bad. Six months after the launch, an Indiana bank sued Edgetech, Parnas and a company called MVP Main Event LLC. Lewis co-owned that company, according to a letter from the bank attorney.

In the lawsuit, the bank accused Parnas and his vice president of sales of writing MVP Main Event a check for $100,000 while knowing they didn’t have enough money to cover the amount. The check was deposited before bank officials caught the error. They sued and won a judgment a year later for nearly $160,000 with attorneys fees.

A decade later, Parnas now faces felony fraud charges. Federal prosecutors have accused him of violating the ban on foreign donations in U.S. elections, of conspiring to make contributions under the names of other people, and of making false statements and falsifying records to federal elections authorities. He faces more than 20 years in federal prison.

On Monday, his lawyer told Reuters that Parnas would offer up records and testify in the Democrats’ impeachment investigation.

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