Manafort accountant with immunity admits having reservations about tax filings

Aaron Brown
August 7, 2018

"I prepared the tax returns and communicated with banks based on information that Mr. Gates and Mr. Manafort provided to me that I didn't believe", LaPorta said.

Heather Washkuhn, the bookkeeper who oversaw Manafort's business and personal holdings, testified as a witness for the prosecution that she thought she had complete knowledge of his financial affairs but that she was unaware of his holdings outside of the United States.

The trial entered its fourth day with more testimony about Mr. Manafort's suspicious financial transactions in the first trial to be brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation. Cindy Laporta, who testified under an immunity deal with the government, acknowledged that she agreed under pressure from Gates to alter a tax document for one of Manafort's businesses. Jurors are expected to hear testimony Friday that Manafort never told his tax accountants about offshore bank accounts containing millions of dollars.

It was one of several times that Laporta testified that she accepted questionable financial statements pressed on her by Gates or Manafort, including some involving other loans prosecutors say were shams to hide income. After some give-and-take, they settled on an amount of $900,000 to be classified as a loan. That could change if Laporta's credibility is undermined on cross, the person said.

Two witnesses - an executive at an upscale clothier and a retired general contractor - testified on Wednesday that invoices purporting to be bills from their companies to a company tied to Manafort appeared to be fake. She said the altered loan meant Manafort owed $400,000 to $500,000 less in taxes in 2015. "I'll tell you what, Russia's very unhappy that Trump won, that I can tell you".

Either way, in 2016 when Mr. Manafort sought a home loan from Citizens Bank, the bank anxious that his company, DMP International, could not afford to repay Paranova. He is expected to testify at the trial, which could last weeks.

Trump's protestations aside, Manafort worked on the campaign during a critical six-month period in 2016, during which he led the effort to ensure Trump won the Republican nomination.

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"Rick Gates is a double-edged sword", said Mintz.

When asked if she believed the loan had been forgiven, Ms. Laporta hesitated before saying, "no". She also said she knew the returns weren't accurate. "I wanted it to be the client's document".

Laporta was the latest in a string of accountants that prosecutors have put on the stand, to build their argument that Manafort had lied on tax returns, loan applications, a federal bank declaration, and other records. In his answer, Manafort said he had "NONE".

The defense's attempt to pin the blame for the foreign shell company scheme on Gates looked more flimsy as the first week of testimony drew to a close.

She also described documents submitted by Manafort to obtain loans. That was somewhat surprising given that the defense counsel has thrown relatively few questions at prosecution witnesses. Mr. Manafort's lawyers are hoping to show that Mr. Gates is the real culprit and that Mr. Manafort is guilty of no more than negligence for not paying greater attention to Mr. Gates and other employees. But we can already be pretty sure of what Trump will say when this one is over. But if Manafort is convicted, they won't say it proves Trump is guilty, because this trial does indeed not have much to do with the 2016 campaign. Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials, but the charges against Manafort do not address that.

And regardless of the outcome, what we've learned so far shows that Manafort should never have gotten within a mile of a major party nominee's campaign, much less been tapped to run it.

Gates said an associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, had control over the overseas accounts.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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