Manafort-Linked Cooperator Gave Valuable Information, U.S. Says

(Bloomberg) -- A Paul Manafort-linked lobbyist who admitted using a straw buyer to get a Ukrainian oligarch into Donald Trump’s inaugural has provided valuable information to prosecutors, the U.S. government says.

The lobbyist, Sam Patten, faces sentencing on Friday. His lawyers and government prosecutors filed papers on Monday highlighting his cooperation with investigators since he was charged and pleaded guilty on Aug. 31.

His plea deal was with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into Russian election interference has ended. Trump-related probes remain, including one by federal prosecutors in Manhattan into Trump’s inaugural committee. Patten pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying but also admitted to the conduct involving the oligarch and the inauguration.

Patten’s lawyers also used the filings to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to play down his relationship with Manafort, whom the same judge sentenced to five years in prison for a conspiracy that included illegal lobbying.

Patten spent the better part of two decades working with Russians and advocating their interests -- at points intersecting with Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort aide whom the FBI has characterized as a Russian agent.

Patten admitted that he had worked for the same pro-Russian political party for which Manafort advocated and that he’d contacted U.S. lawmakers and members of the executive branch. He set up meetings between U.S. officials and individuals identified in court papers as a Russian national and a Ukrainian oligarch, without disclosing he was doing so on behalf of the party.

“Even in the face of media reporting that has falsely labeled Mr. Patten a lobbyist, or a Manafort ‘associate’ or a Trump supporter, as well as the personal attacks and death threats that he has received, Mr. Patten has quietly and without fanfare or attention, worked to improve himself and to make sure he understands what led him to act in a manner inconsistent with his own principles and character,” his attorneys said. “Unlike the Manafort case,” they added, Patten wasn’t hired to lobby in the U.S.

He would have testified against Manafort in a September trial, according to the government, had the longtime international political strategist not opted to enter a plea agreement with Mueller’s prosecutors after being found guilty by a jury in a separate bank- and tax-fraud trial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Patten did share a business with Kilimnik, the Manafort associate. Kilimnik still faces U.S. charges that he and Manafort conspired to tamper with witnesses for Manafort’s case before Jackson, which never saw trial because of the plea deal.

Prosecutors, in their own filing on Monday, told the court that the advisory federal sentencing guidelines don’t include a provision that covers Patten’s crime. They asked Jackson to impose a punishment consistent with the severity of his offense, but also one that takes into account his acceptance of responsibility and cooperation.

The violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. In seeking leniency, Patten told the judge he’d not concealed the identity of his clients but rather did “a few favors” for them “that crossed the line into FARA-registrable activity.”

The substance of Patten’s cooperation isn’t known. It’s possible that he could have given prosecutors insights into how foreign money might have made its way into the inaugural festivities for Trump. Federal election rules prohibit inaugural committees from accepting money from foreign nationals; Patten admitted to but wasn’t charged with recruiting the straw buyer to obtain four inaugural tickets for the oligarch. The tickets collectively cost $50,000.

The case is U.S. v. Patten 18-cr-260, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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