George Cottrell, an ally to U.K. politician Nigel Farage, has been arrested by the FBI on charges of laundering drug money and asking drug dealers to pay him 62,000 pounds in bitcoin, according to The Telegraph, a U.K.-based newspaper. Cottrell was in custody awaiting trial on 21 charges that include money laundering, fraud, and attempted extortion.
Authorities arrested Cottrell on July 22 as he and Farage landed in Chicago’s O’Hare airport en route to London’s Heathrow airport. The duo had attended the Republic Party Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where they met with politicians and aides to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Farage is a member of the European Parliament and the former U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) leader. Cottrell operates Farage’s office and handles media inquiries.
Cottrell is alleged to have advertised his services to clients on the “dark web” using an alias, “Bill.”
FBI agents posing as drug traffickers in 2014 contacted Cottrell, who promised to lend the assumed traffickers money through his offshore accounts, according to court documents.
Cottrell met with the undercover agents in Las Vegas and arranged to receive £15,500. He then threatened to expose the assumed drug traffickers to police unless they paid him £62,000 worth of bitcoin.
Authorities froze Cottrell’s email and bank accounts, allegedly preventing Farage from being able to access his personal diary. He is scheduled to be extradited to Phoenix, Ariz.
Court documents allege that Cottrell has a serious, lengthy gambling problem and a strong possibility of taking irrational risks, and he poses a serious flight risk.
Farage returned to London and was not aware Cottrell was under FBI investigation. A UKIP spokesperson said Cottrell was a party volunteer during the Brexit referendum. The spokesperson said the party was not aware of the details of the allegations against Cottrell.
Cottrell is believed to be worth about £250 million. He worked for Farage at no charge during the Brexit referendum. He is also the nephew of Lord Hesketh, the former Conservative Party treasurer who switched to UKIP in 2011.
Fiona Cottrell, Cottrell’s mother, received “Pet of the Month” honors in October 1973 for posing naked in Penthouse Magazine under a pseudonym, Frances Cannon.
Cottrell is listed as residing in a £2.5 million Kensington, West London apartment, with his family living near Evesham, Worcestershire.
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