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Special counsel says Paul Manafort deserves up to 24.5 years in prison for financial crime

Posted at 7:31 PM, Feb 15, 2019

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort deserves 19.5 years to 24.5 years in prison for his conviction for eight financial crimes, special counsel Robert Mueller's office said Friday night.

Manafort, 69, was convicted by a Virginia jury last August for bank fraud, tax fraud and other financial crimes related to the money he earned working for Ukrainian politicians.

"In the end, 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. "The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct."

Manafort's age should not help him receive a reduced sentence, Mueller's office said.

"Manafort's age does not eliminate the risk of recidivism he poses -- particularly given that his pattern of criminal activity has occurred over more than a decade and that the most recent crimes he pled guilty to occurred from February to April 2018, when he conspired to tamper with witnesses at a time when he was under indictment in two separate districts," prosecutors wrote.

The sentence will be up to the judge alone. Judge T.S. Ellis hasn't set a sentencing date.

Manafort has also pleaded guilty in a Washington, DC, federal court, where he will be sentenced next month.

Previous sentencing submissions for other defendants from Mueller's office have detailed major moments in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, from how the FBI began investigating a crime to describing scenes in which it confronted defendants to how defendants fit into the special counsel's work.

Manafort has already spent five months to in jail for violating his bail terms by attempting to contact witnesses in his case.

The last two times Manafort has been seen in court, the once wealthy, slick and poised lobbyist appeared to be aging quickly and in declining health. At one hearing in October, he sat in a wheelchair because of gout that affected his foot. Last month, he relied on a cane and needed to brace himself when standing and walking. His dyed-black hair is now almost entirely gray.

Trial and conviction

During the trial last summer, prosecutors hauled boxes of financial documents and emails, as well as 27 witnesses into the Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom. Jurors heard how Manafort took in millions of dollars a year from his Ukrainian clients through secret offshore bank accounts primarily in Cyprus. With the funds, he bought luxury goods and services, including ostrich- and python-skin jackets and landscaping service to tend to the "M"-shaped flower bed at his Hamptons mansion.

When the payments dried up, Manafort sent fake financial statements to banks to secure millions in mortgages.

Manafort was convicted on eight counts: five of tax fraud, hiding a foreign bank account and defrauding two banks for loans. The tax fraud charges each carry a three-year maximum sentence, while the foreign banking count has a five-year maximum. The bank frauds have the harshest punishment -- 30-year maximum sentences each.

In mid-September, Manafort cut a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to two charges in DC federal court, to admit to all allegations they had made against him. He said he would cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly" with the Justice Department. The prosecutors dropped all the other charges he faced.

But after nine cooperation interviews and two testimony sessions before the grand jury, prosecutors accused Manafort telling multiple lies, including about his interactions with longtime Russian colleague Konstantin Kilimnik.

A federal judge certified this week that Manafort had lied intentionally and was covering up information that was "material" to the special counsel's work. Top Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann let on that Manafort's attempt to cover up information about a 2016 meeting that then-campaign head Manafort and Kilimnik had, where they talked about a policy in Ukraine that would affect Russia, touched on the "heart" of the investigation.

The allegations in the DC and Virginia federal criminal cases mirror each other, yet the two progressed separately before different judges. He'll receive separate sentences from each court. The sentencing before the judge in DC, Amy Berman Jackson, is set for March 13.