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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Otter Co-op expands to North Vancouver brewery and Abbotsford pub

Aldergrove-borne enterprise delves into hospitality realm with three new Angry Otter liquor stores

LETTER: More traffic enforcement needed in Fort Langley, one resident pleads

Irresponsible drivers using the village and surrounding area as circuit – says Fort advocate

Group of Langley co-workers wins $145K with Lotto Max

Everyone was on days off when they heard the news they’d won the lottery

T-Rex earns big bids at Langley dino auction

More than 500 dino-themed items sold to buyers from across North America

Langley fires prompt warning about balcony and deck fires

Langley Township has tips to stay safer in outdoor spaces that can be the scene of fires

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

FURTHER UPDATE: Body removed from Maple Ridge hotel after large police presence

A large contingent of Mounties were at the Art Infiniti Hotel Friday afternoon and evening

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

Most Read