Federal court is seen as the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort continues, in Alexandria, Va., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Prosecutors to rest case at Manafort financial fraud trial

On Thursday, a group of bank employees told jurors about discrepancies and outright falsehoods contained on Manafort’s loan applications.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Friday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, after days of occasionally dramatic testimony in Manafort’s bank fraud and tax evasion trial and some testy exchanges with the trial judge.

Prosecuting attorneys for special counsel Robert Mueller got a rare, and narrow, acknowledgment from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III that he likely erred when he angrily confronted them a day earlier.

The judge’s comments came Thursday, during the eighth day of trial, as prosecutors began presenting the bulk of their bank fraud case after spending days largely on tax evasion allegations.

Thursday’s testimony was devoid of some of the drama of recent days, when longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates was confronted about having embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and was forced to admit on the witness stand to an extramarital affair.

On Thursday, a group of bank employees told jurors about discrepancies and outright falsehoods contained on Manafort’s loan applications.

Melinda James, a Citizens Bank mortgage loan assistant, testified that Manafort told the bank that a New York City property would be used as a second residence, but she found it listed as a rental on a real estate website. That distinction matters because banks regard loans for rental, or investment, properties as riskier and may impose restrictions, including on how much money they’re willing to lend.

Related: Cross-examination focuses on Manafort protege’s own crimes

Related: Manafort accused of amassing ‘secret income’ as trial opens

Jurors saw an email from Manafort to his son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, in which he advised him that an appraiser was looking to schedule a visit to the property.

“Remember, he believes that you and Jessica are living there,” Manafort wrote in the email, referencing his daughter.

Airbnb executive Darin Evenson also told jurors that one of Manafort’s New York City properties was offered as a rental through much of 2015 and 2016 — a direct contradiction of the documents the longtime political consultant submitted to obtain a $3.4 million loan.

Manafort also asserted on a loan application that he did not have a mortgage on a separate New York property, even though he actually did, and signed paperwork indicating he understood that he could face criminal penalties for providing false information to the bank.

The prosecution has called more than 20 witnesses, including Gates, and introduced a trove of documentary evidence as they’ve sought to prove Manafort defrauded banks and concealed millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts from the IRS. But along the way they’ve not only faced an aggressive defence team but a combative relationship with Ellis.

The judge has subjected the prosecution to repeated tongue-lashings over the pace of their questioning, their large amount of trial exhibits and even their facial expressions. But on Thursday, Ellis told jurors he went overboard when he erupted at prosecutors a day earlier for allowing an expert witness to remain in the courtroom during the trial.

“Put aside my criticism,” Ellis said, adding, “This robe doesn’t make me anything other than human.”

Prosecutors had asked Ellis to tell the jury that he made an error in admonishing them during the Wednesday testimony of IRS agent Michael Welch.

Ellis had heatedly confronted prosecutor Uzo Asonye, saying he hadn’t authorized Welch to watch the entirety of the trial. Witnesses are usually excluded from watching unless allowed by the judge.

But in their filing, prosecutors attached a transcript showing that in fact Ellis had approved the request a week before. They said his outburst prejudiced the jury by suggesting they had acted improperly and could undermine Welch’s testimony.

“The Court’s sharp reprimand of government counsel in front of the jury on August 8 was therefore erroneous,” prosecutors wrote. “And, while mistakes are a natural part of the trial process, the mistake here prejudiced the government by conveying to the jury that the government had acted improperly and had violated court rules or procedures.”

Welch had told jurors that Manafort didn’t report at least $16 million on his tax returns between 2010 and 2014. He also said Manafort should have reported multiple foreign bank accounts to the IRS in those years.

On Thursday, they also asked Ellis to seal portions of a bench conversation during Gates’ testimony because “substantive evidence” in an ongoing investigation was discussed. Prosecutors didn’t elaborate, but one bench conference came after Manafort’s defence team tried to question Gates about whether he had discussed his work on the Trump campaign with Mueller’s team.

The judge agreed Thursday night to seal the portion of the sidebar.

Neither Manafort nor Gates was charged in connection with their Trump campaign work, but the special counsel continues to investigate Russian election interference and any ties to associates of the president.

___

Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun And Chad Day, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Horses from Victoria Carriage Tours involved in second incident in three months

Witnesses: Horses veered into a parked vehicle, smashing windows, climbing onto roof with front hooves

Vehicle stolen in Oak Bay carjacking found

Oldsmobile Alero found Monday in restricted parking zone in Victoria

Stolen Search and Rescue dog harness replaced by donation

Moxxii’s specialized harness was stolen at the Pet-A-Palooza festival

Seaplane flights cancelled between Victoria and Vancouver due to smoke

Harbour Air has grounded flights travelling through the Georgia Strait

First stores open in Victoria’s expanded Mayfair shopping centre

Construction project will add about 100,000 square feet of retail space and 400 parking stalls

PHOTOS: Puppy love makes a splash at St. Ann’s Academy

Puppies stampede, dive and do yoga at Victoria’s largest outdoor pet festival

Vehicle fire on the Coquihalla

Heavy congestion in north bound lanes

Prime minister greeted by B.C. premier as cabinet retreat begins

PM Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan meet in advance of federal cabinet meetings in Nanaimo

Are your kids anxious about going back to school?

BC Children’s Hospital offers tips to help your children be mindful and reduce stress

New trial ordered for James Oler in B.C. child bride case

Meanwhile, appeal court dismisses Emily Blackmore’s appeal of guilty verdict

This trash heap in Vancouver could be yours for $3.9 million

Sitting atop 6,000 square feet, the home was built in 1912, later destroyed by fire

Team Canada’s next game postponed at Little League World Series

They’re back in action on Wednesday against Peurto Rico

Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen pleads guilty in hush-money scheme

Said he and Trump arranged payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read