Why Are Mean Accountants Always Trying To Frame Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort Would Like To Know!
Four days in to his trial, and we can confirm that Paul Manafort needs to go directly to jail for the crime of IDIOCY! From the $15,000 ostrich jacket to the $20,000 karaoke system, Manafort was an easy mark for salesmen trained to spot a jerk who needs to drop wads of cash to feel important. Also, can he really have wired in $1.9 million to buy a house for his daughter in Arlington? Because OMFG!!! this asshole wasn't even trying to hide it!
Friday morning began with testimony from Manafort's longtime tax-preparer Philip Ayliff. After establishing that Paul Manafort, not Rick Gates, called the shots with the accountants, prosecutor Uzo Asonye showed the jurors five years of tax returns and several emails where Manafort repeatedly denied having any foreign bank accounts. Who wired in that six million dollars from Cyprus for clothes, home improvements, and cars? It's a mystery!
Ayliff also testified that in 2015, Peranova Holdings, a Cyprus-based company, wired in a $1.5 million "business loan," i.e. untaxed income, which Manafort used to pay personal expenses. In 2016, the money was reclassified as "earnings" on a bank loan application. Had Manafort made any payments on that loan? He had not. But it made his bottom line look a lot better when he submitted his paperwork to the bank!
Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing painted his client as a naive dupe, honestly mistaken about the need to report foreign accounts to the IRS and taken in by his devious assistant Rick Gates. Would his client really have been so stupid as to do all this crazy, illegal shit out in the open if he knew it was a crime, Downing asked? Per WaPo,
Essentially, he argued that if Manafort had known he was doing something illegal, he wouldn't have been so easy to catch.
"Nobody intending to violate the law would leave the evidence around for his accountant to find it," Downing said in court.
Judge T.S. Ellis III made the same point, summarizing the defense as, "There's a trail in these documents that would lead to the truth, and somebody who violated the law wouldn't have done that."
Well, no one ever went broke underestimating American juries, but ... lotsa luck, buddy.
In the afternoon, another of Manafort's accountants, Cindy Laporta, testified that Rick Gates called her in September 2015 and said that Manafort didn't have the cash to pay his 2014 taxes. Gates pressured her to reclassify some of Manafort's income as loans to decrease his tax burden. When asked for supporting documentation, Gates presented her with a two-page loan document from a Cyprus-based company purporting to be from March 2015 "loaning" Manafort $900,000. This document, signed by Paul Manafort, took $900,000 off his 2014 earnings, reducing his tax bill by at least $400,000. Cool, huh?
One document, which prosecutors called an "adjusted trial balance," showed how Manafort's business, DMP International, initially made no reference to the $900,000 loan he would later claim on his taxes. But in a column for adjusted items, the $900,000 loan appeared. To support the change, an item initially listed as $900,000 in "other income" was reclassified as a loan in the books at Manafort's business, Laporta testified.
Laporta also testified that, under pressure from Manafort and Gates, she helped them dummy up loan applications after the Ukraine money stopped rolling in. Not only did she goose Manafort's income to help him juice the banks for cash, she claimed one of Manafort's rental properties was a personal residence so he could qualify for a lower-rate mortgage -- despite having prepared Manafort's tax return showing $116,000 of rental income on the house.
Knowingly filing false tax returns and submitting fraudulent loan documents is a crime, and Laporta is one of the witnesses granted immunity for her testimony. This afternoon, Laporta will again take the stand, where she will presumably be torn apart by Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing. He needs to prove that she'd say anything Robert Mueller wants to avoid prosecution for her own crimes, or in the alternative, that she and Rick Gates cooked the books all on their own. That's just his job.
But also, FUCK YOU FOREVER Paul Manafort! Big clients who pressure subordinates to break the law only to turn around and try to pin it all on their powerless employees should go to jail forever. THE END.
So far the action has been mostly restrained, except for Judge Ellis yelling at the prosecutors all the time for making Manafort look like such an asshole. That will change this week as Rick Gates testifies against his former mentor. Manafort's team wants to force Gates to admit it was ALL HIS FAULT, that he conned poor Paul Manafort into dummying up his own tax returns, falsifying loan applications, and wiring in millions of untaxed dollars from Cyprus to pay for home improvements that he later classified as a business expense. Shit's gonna get UGLY, and fast.
We'll keep you posted!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.