Paul Manafort pleads not guilty to tax and fraud charges in Virginia court

Paul Manafort pleads not guilty to tax and fraud charges in Virginia court


By Rachel Weiner March 8 at 3:21 PM Email the author

President Trump’s former campaign manager pleaded not guilty to tax and fraud charges in federal court in Virginia Thursday, as he appeared before a judge in the second criminal case brought against him by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Paul J. Manafort last week also pleaded not guilty in a related case in Washington, D.C., where he is set to go to trial Sept. 17. Manafort lives in Virginia and was indicted there in February.

During the Thursday hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Judge T.S. Ellis III put Manafort on home confinement, requiring him to wear a GPS bracelet, and set a trial date for July 10. It is expected to last eight to 10 days.

[Inside the Manafort money machine]

Manafort’s former business partner, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty in D.C. to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. At the request of prosecutors, charges have been dropped against Gates in Virginia, though they could be resurrected should he fail to live up to his plea agreement.

That agreement requires him to offer information on any matters that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III deems relevant.

Both indictments accuse Manafort of hiding the work he did for and the money he made from a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

In Washington, Manafort faces counts of conspiracy to launder more than $30 million, making false statements, failing to follow lobbying disclosure laws and working as an unregistered foreign agent.

In Virginia, he is accused of hiding foreign bank accounts, falsifying his income taxes and failing to report foreign bank accounts.

Manafort also faces bank fraud charges in Virginia not directly related to his work in Ukraine. After his business there dried up, according to prosecutors, Manafort fraudulently secured over $20 million in loans in part by using his real estate as collateral.

In court Thursday, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said he expects to call twenty to twenty-five witnesses. But, he said, “I don’t think it’s complicated.”

Defense attorney Kevin Downing disagreed.

“Having had the benefit of trying criminal tax cases for 15 years, I think it is complicated,” he said. “I think there are a lot of complex issues in this case.”

He had hoped for the trial to be in November, he said, after Manafort faces a jury in D.C. But Ellis, while agreeing the case was a complex one, refused to push a trial into the fall.

Manafort is innocent of the Virginia charges, his spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement after the indictment was announced.

“The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion,” the statement said. “Mr. Manafort is confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”

If convicted of bank fraud in Virginia, Manafort faces up to 270 years in prison, but prosecutors say federal sentencing guidelines call for much less time: four to five years. He faces up to 15 years on the charges of filing false tax returns and up to 20 years on the charges of failing to report foreign bank accounts. Guidelines call for about eight to 10 years, though.

Ellis, a senior judge, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.


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