Paul Nicholas Whelan, a 50-year-old resident of Novi, Michigan, was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service (“FSB”) in Moscow on December 28, 2018, and has been falsely accused of committing espionage against Russia. He was held in the notorious Lefortovo Prison until August, 2020. In June 2020 Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in a labor camp and his wrongful detention is now continuing in gulag IK-17, which is located in the remote Russian province of Mordovia.

Paul developed medical issues while in Lefortovo, undergoing interrogation and intimidation while the FSB tried to extract a false confession from him. Paul has the support the US, Canadian, UK and Irish governments, including strong support from his home state of Michigan, but they have yet to succeed in getting Paul released from this wrongful detention. His family is doing all they can to get the right people in government to take action (see the Updates for this campaign), but in the meantime, we need to support Paul and help get him through this ordeal.

Funds raised through GoFundMe for Paul Whelan will be used to support Paul during his time in gulag IK-17 as it was in Lefortovo prison (for example, for his prison fund administered by the US Embassy Moscow staff, which is used to buy supplies like toilet paper, toothpaste, and fresh food - none of which is provided), to pay his legal bills, and to get him back to the United States.

Thank you for your help. Below is more background on Paul Whelan, and the Updates for this campaign will give you more information on the work his family is doing to get him back home. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook @freepaulwhelan, or visit the website

Paul was born in Canada to British parents who are of Irish descent. In the early 1970s, he moved to the US and lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his family. From a young age, Paul was encouraged by his parents to travel to experience different cultures. He traveled to many countries, including a solo trip to Europe as a teenager.

Paul was interested in serving his community from a young age. After taking up courses at university, Paul completed police training and worked with various police departments in Michigan. Paul always made a point of visiting local police stations in the towns he visited, even later in life, including several stations in far away places.

In 1994, Paul was called again to service and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Reserves, as he began working in the IT department of Kelly Services at their global headquarters in Michigan. Paul’s Marine Reserve unit was deployed to Iraq in 2004 where he served two tours of duty, transitioning to active duty along the way.

Upon completion of his service in Iraq, Paul returned to work at Kelly Services, this time in their Global Security department. Paul’s work increasingly involved global travel, and Paul made friends in many countries across the globe.

In 2017, Paul began work with auto parts maker Borg Warner as their Global Security Director, and continued his regular worldwide travel to visit their many plants. Paul has always enjoyed travel, and often augments work trips with a few vacation days in order to visit certain sites or explore neighboring countries.

This was the case with Russia. Paul had initially visited the country while in the Marines, via an invitation extended to him in 2006 by a Lt. Colonel about to take up a post at the US Embassy in Moscow. Over the next 12 years, he visited Russia about 6 more times.

Typically, his visits took him to Moscow, and it was this familiarity with the city that led his friend, also a former Marine, to ask Paul to participate in the friend’s wedding in Moscow.

Paul traveled to Moscow on December 22, 2018, and subsequently met with his former Marine friend in addition to other Russians with whom he cultivated friendships on prior visits. During his visit, Paul led tours for the American wedding guests around Moscow.

Then, on December 28, Paul disappeared. When he did not show up at the wedding, his friend was immediately concerned and filed a missing person report to the US Embassy in Moscow.

Receiving this news in the US, the Whelan family was frantic with worry. The first news the family received about the fate of their son and brother came three days after he went missing, when Paul’s twin brother, David Whelan, came across a Reuters story that put out the barest facts: American citizen Paul Whelan had been arrested by the FSB in Moscow. Later that was elaborated on; the charge was espionage against Russia.

Since then, few verifiable facts have come to light. The FSB has not publicly disclosed the factual predication of the charges against Paul. Paul is being denied full consular access: he was prevented for many months from completing the Privacy Act Waiver process; the PAW is a document the State Department needs to advocate publicly for Paul. He was prevented from signing a Power of Attorney until recently, which was needed to manage his affairs and to arrange for a lawyer of his own choosing, rather than the lawyer the FSB has appointed on Paul’s behalf.

FSB then tried to isolate Paul in  a number of ways to coerce a false confession from him. He was regularly interrogated without a lawyer present, and the investigator on the case threatened his life.His mail is held up for months at a time, he has only recently received any books in English, and frequently his cellmate has been removed, leaving him in solitary confinement.

Now that a sham trial has concluded (June 15, 2020), the Russian authorities have convicted Paul of espionage--again, without evidence--and sentenced him to 16 years 'harsh regime' imprisonment.

While the family is obtaining excellent support from the State Department's Consular Affairs, other elements of the U.S. Government have informed the family that because of internal bureaucracy, the trigger for additional family support from the US government has not occurred. As a result, the family has not been able to contribute to or receive information from the remainder of the federal government in any sort of organized fashion.

Our strongest desire is to know that the U.S. Government as a whole is doing everything it can do to secure Paul’s release.

And in addition, the government does not help with his legal aid, with support for Paul during this wrongful detention, or the funds to get him home. And although they are doing what they can, these bills are beyond his family's means. 

Your support at any level would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for helping Free Paul Whelan.


Funds raised through GoFundMe for Paul Whelan will be used to support Paul during his time in Lefortovo Prison (for example, for his prison fund which is used to buy things like toilet paper, toothpaste, and reasonable food), to pay his legal bills, and to get him back to the United States.

Our brother Andrew Whelan, with the help of a lawyer, has set up a proper trust for Paul--the Paul Whelan Legal Defense Trust. The funds from GoFundMe go directly into a trust account at a reputable bank. Andrew is responsible for recording all funds going in and out for tax purposes, legal reasons, etc. Andrew also transfers the funds on a regular basis to the US Embassy in Moscow, where they shop for food, etc. for Paul and deliver his food and supplies to the prison. They also maintain a prison fund for Paul, in coordination with Andrew.

If any funds remain in his GoFundMe account after Paul Whelan has been freed The Trust will make a donation to a Not-For-Profit charity with the residue. We will be very careful to withdraw only what is needed. We will update the donors as to what the funds are being used for, as they are needed.

Updates about Paul Whelan will be posted on this campaign, and on . Thank you for your help.


  • sharon Popp 
    • $50 
    • 16 hrs
  • George Coblyn 
    • $100 
    • 7 d
  • Southern Images 
    • $50 
    • 7 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 7 d
  • stina hellgren sayre 
    • $100 
    • 7 d
See all

Fundraising team (3)

Elizabeth Whelan 
Raised $1,060 from 16 donations
Manchester Township, MI
The Paul Whelan Legal Defense Trust 
David Whelan 
Team member
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