Mueller Urges That Manafort Serve Up to 24 Years for Fraud
(Bloomberg) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller recommended that Paul Manafort serve as much as a quarter century in prison for his convictions last year on tax- and bank-fraud charges, seeking what is effectively a life sentence for the 69-year-old former Trump campaign chairman.
Mueller’s prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Virginia, to hammer Manafort for using untaxed income hidden offshore to support a lavish lifestyle and for cheating banks when he was desperate for cash.
“Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars,” prosecutors wrote to Ellis late Friday. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of
these crimes, and serve to deter both Manafort and others.”
The special counsel’s 120-page submission, which recommends a prison sentence of between 19.6 and 24.4 years, contains his first public assessment of the severity of the eight felonies for which Manafort was found guilty following a jury trial in August. Those counts were bank fraud, tax fraud and failure to file a foreign bank account report.
Manafort lied to tax authorities about tens of millions of dollars he earned as a political consultant to pro-Kremlin politicians in Ukraine and misled banks about his financial health to get loans, the jurors found. He was convicted of filing false tax returns after prosecutors said he spent $15 million from unreported offshore accounts for expensive properties, custom clothing, renovations to his Hamptons estate and other luxuries.
Manafort didn’t commit these crimes out of necessity or hardship, prosecutors said. He was well educated, professionally successful and rich. Still, he failed to pay more than $6 million in taxes.
The case was the first one brought by Mueller to go to trial. The special counsel has charged more than 30 people and secured several guilty pleas.
Ellis will decide Manafort’s fate after Manafort is sentenced on March 13 by another federal judge, Amy Berman Jackson, in Washington, where he pleaded guilty to related charges. Manafort’s lawyers are certain to urge a far more lenient sentence when they submit their recommendation to Ellis.
Both sides are due to submit their requests to Jackson next week. By pleading guilty to two conspiracy counts in that case, Manafort faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Just weeks after the Alexandria federal court verdict, seeking to avoid a second trial in Washington, Manafort admitted to a series of crimes and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and any ties to Donald Trump’s campaign.
Jackson ruled this week that Manafort had breached his deal with Mueller’s prosecutors by lying to them, relieving them of the obligation to recommend leniency. She ruled that he made material false statements on three topics of interest to Mueller’s investigators.
One subject was his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a translator who worked with Manafort for a decade on campaigns for pro-Kremlin politicians and parties in Ukraine. Mueller has said Kilimnik is tied to Russian intelligence agencies.
Jackson said she agreed with Mueller’s claim that Manafort lied about his contacts with Kilimnik but said she couldn’t determine if the Russian was a spy, according to a transcript of a sealed hearing released Friday. Still, Manafort’s contacts with Kilimnik are “at the undisputed core” of Mueller’s Russia investigation, Jackson said at a Feb. 13 court hearing.
“I have not been provided with the evidence that I would need to decide, nor do I have to decide because it’s outside the scope of this hearing,” Jackson told lawyers.
The Alexandria jury found that Manafort lied to U.S. tax authorities about tens of millions of dollars he’d earned in Ukraine. The trial shed light on Manafort’s work as a political strategist paid by pro-Russia oligarchs in Ukraine. When he advised Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, the oligarchs paid for his work by moving millions into shell companies in Cyprus, jurors heard.
Manafort was paid more than $60 million between 2010 and 2014. By the time he joined the Trump campaign as an unpaid chairman, he was defrauding banks, prosecutors said.
Citing those facts, prosecutors told Ellis on Friday, “The sentence in this case must take into account the gravity of this conduct, and serve to both specifically deter Manafort and those who would commit a similar series of crimes.”
The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
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