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

Gitdumden checkpoint blocks access to Unist’ot’en camp

Wet’suwet’en clan members say Morice Lake Forest Service Rd checkpoint in effect until further notice.

Column: Windows can be bad news for birds

Dianne Bersea is a member of the South Okanagan Naturalists Club

23-year-old missing from Prince George since Dec. 1

Kari Baxter has a dreamcatcher tattoo on her neck

Passport services expanded to 300 locations across Canada

At Service Canada outlets officers can review applications, validate supporting documents, collect fees and forward applications

Two Vanderhoof students awarded scholarships for post-secondary education

Indigenous students awarded to further their studies

VIDEO: Ex-NASA engineer pranks mail thieves with glitter bomb trap

Package thefts are common this time of year, but YouTuber Mark Rober used his engineering skills

Lightning top Canucks 5-2 in feisty battle

NHL’s No. 1 team too much for Vancouver

FortisBC says you can return to normal gas use following pipeline fire

Utility says increased pipeline capacity, warmer weather have allowed supply to reach normal levels

CSIS collected info on peaceful groups, but only in pursuit of threats: watchdog

Security Intelligence Review Committee says fears unjustified after reviewing evidence, testimony

Canada ranks 16th on annual gender gap list

This is the second year Canada has placed 16th in the World Economic Forum’s list

VIDEO: Tornado rips through city west of Seattle

Reports indicate five to seven homes damaged in Port Orchard, Wash.

Trial date postponed for man charged with killing Abbotsford police officer

Oscar Arfmann’s trial pushed back from January to May 2019

Privacy watchdog says legal cannabis buyers should use cash, not credit

Some countries could bar entry to individuals if they know they have purchased cannabis

‘A start:’ Alberta critical of Ottawa’s $1.6B package for ailing energy sector

A further $150 million is to be used for clean growth and infrastructure projects

Most Read