Forensic Accountant Next Up in Manafort Trial as Gates Ends Testimony

Forensic Accountant Next Up in Manafort Trial as Gates Ends Testimony

Paul Manafort's Virginia trial resumed Thursday with testimony from a bank employee who worked with Manafort on a loan application finalized in March 2016, just a few weeks before he joined the Trump campaign. Gates has already pled guilty to two counts in Mueller's probe and testified against Manafort as part of a plea deal with the special counsel's office.

Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant Morgan Magionos used charts, emails from Manafort to his lawyers in Cyprus, and other corroborating documents to detail how Manafort funneled roughly $15 million from hidden offshore accounts to purchase home electronic installations, real estate, fancy clothing, such as the now-infamous $15,000 ostrich-skin jacket, and other luxuries from 2010 to 2014.

IRS agent Michael Welch said the total includes foreign wire transfers to US vendors like landscapers and clothiers, wire transfers to buy property, and income reclassified as loans. He made other payments to an Italian villa vacation home rental agency and a horseback riding academy in New Jersey.

The judge overseeing the Paul Manafort trial, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, has clashed with prosecutors in recent days. Downing said that the question, which came one day after Gates admitted to having a single affair ten years ago, was relevant because it could prove that Gates had lied to investigators.

Downing followed up: "Do you remember telling the office of the special counsel you actually engaged in four extramarital affairs?"

"Mr Downing, I've made many mistakes over many years", said Gates, before being cut off by the judge, who snapped: "This isn't the time for that".

"I've acknowledged there was a period where I had another relationship", said Gates, who is married.

Gates then left the witness stand.

Manafort was chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and his longtime deputy was part of the campaign, too.

Prosecutors say Manafort fraudulently secured more than $20 million dollars in bank loans by falsely inflating his income and failing to disclose debts.

Gates told the court in Alexandria, Virginia, that he had met with government lawyer Greg Andres and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents 20 times and been told only to tell the truth, without any guarantee that he will be spared prison.

The prosecution's case against Manafort doesn't rest exclusively on Gates.

Perhaps the Gates saga could boil down to one exchange about crime and consequences, and the decision he had made to turn on Manafort.

Manafort attorney Richard Westling also attempted to sow doubt in Magionos's testimony regarding the authenticity of the Manafort signature on various documents that were presented.

The aggressive questioning was aimed at shifting blame from Mr Manafort onto Mr Gates, who pleaded guilty in Mr Mueller's investigation and agreed to co-operate with investigators by testifying in the financial fraud trial. At one point during this signature comparing exercise, Magionos observed, "It looks a bit different, but I'm also not a hand-writing expert". "The secret Rick Gates?".

She says in another instance, Manafort maintained that there were no mortgages on a separate NY property when there actually were.

Funds "should be in your account today. In reality, it was basically money moving between accounts". "Pls (sic) make the five transfers listed below from the Leviathan account and confirm to me when completed", Manafort wrote.

While the defense's strategy seems focused destroying Gates' trustworthiness in the eyes of the jury, prosecutors have sought to broaden their case so it's not completely reliant on him.

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