Manafort told son-in-law to lie about living in condo, prosecutors say

Lamar Ellis
August 10, 2018

Prosecutors summoned Gates to give jurors the first-hand account of a co-conspirator they say helped Manafort carry out an elaborate offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud scheme.

But his involvement in creating those documents and executing those transactions, they have said, did not extend beyond inking his signature at the bottom.

Melinda James, a banker who testified earlier Thursday, said Manafort had described the property's ownership as split between him, his wife and his daughter Jessica, who was then married to Jeff Yohai, now her now-ex-husband.

Laporta admitted on the witness stand last Friday that during a conference call in September 2015, she agreed, on Gates' urging, to alter a tax document for one of Manafort's businesses in order to disguise $900,000 in foreign income as a loan, according to the Associated Press, thus reducing Manafort's tax burden by almost half a million dollars.

Welch had told jurors that Manafort didn't report at least $16 million on his tax returns between 2010 and 2014.

Defense lawyer Kevin Downing began his cross-examination of longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates by pressing him on his own lies to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, an extramarital affair and hundreds of thousands of dollars he admitted to embezzling from his former boss. Manafort's defence team's has tried to pin much of the blame for financial crimes on Gates and raise doubts about his ethics and morals.

On some accounts, the beneficial owners were listed as either Manafort, Gates or his Ukrainian translator Konstantin Kilimnik, she said.

At times, Ellis has also sided against the defense team, such as when he didn't require former Manafort deputy Rick Gates to answer a question on Wednesday about whether he had four extramarital affairs, not just the one he disclosed the day before.

At first, Gates merely noted that in March 2016 Manafort hired him to work for "one of the presidential candidates".

"It appears I may well have been wrong", Ellis said as the trial went into its eighth day.

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On Thursday morning, Mueller's team requested that Ellis issue a "curative instruction" to the jury, saying he has "mistakenly faulted" the prosecution.

Lisa Kern Griffin, who teaches law at Duke University, said many judges are harsher on the government, fearing that being seen favoring a prosecution could be the basis for a defendant's appeal.

Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, has indicted more than 30 people - including 26 Russians - in connection with his probe into whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to help get the real estate tycoon elected.

On Thursday, a series of bank employees told jurors about discrepancies and outright falsehoods contained on Manafort's applications for millions of dollars in loans.

Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, is charged with 18 counts of tax and banking crimes and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Gates, who embezzled hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of dollars from his boss over a decade, went behind his back to cook numbers and hide his income for him, they have argued. In addition, he testified, he did not submit the required forms at Manafort's direction.

Laporta ... said she knew what she did was "not appropriate", adding that "you can't pick and choose what's a loan and what's income".

Under questioning by prosecutor Greg Andres, Gates walked the six-man, six-woman jury through the foreign bank accounts used by Manafort to receive payments from Ukrainian politicians - money that was not reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

"I'm here. I'm trying to change", he said.

"I think the jury will hate (Gates), but they should still convict (Manafort) because of the testimony of other witnesses and the other documents that do put all of this on Manafort".

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