Accountant of ex-Trump aide Manafort testifies she helped falsify documents

Leroy Wright
August 6, 2018

An accountant for Donald Trump's former election campaign chief Paul Manafort says she helped disguise his foreign income so he could pay less in tax.

The testimony from Ayliff, Laporta and another bookkeeper who worked with Manafort, Heather Washkuhn, has cut into one of the defense's main arguments: that Manafort wasn't involved with his own finances at a granular level and that his former business partner Rick Gates is responsible for the bank and tax fraud.

Mr Manafort is facing charges of bank fraud, tax fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts. She testified that in 2016, Manafort lied to banks about how much money he made and sent them phony invoices.

Laporta testified she knew an accounting treatment for a loan was wrong when preparing Manafort's tax return for 2014.

He said Manafort paid for much of the work through worldwide wire transfer and was his only client to do so. "I could have called Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates liars, and Mr. Manafort was a longtime client of the firm, and I didn't think I should do that either".

Laporta testified that Gates, in a conference call with her and another accountant at the firm, instructed them to alter a loan amount to lower Manafort's tax bill because it was too high for Manafort to pay. Mr Gates pleaded guilty in February and is expected to testify against Mr Manafort, possibly next week.

Washkuhn also detailed how after Manafort's political consulting money from Ukraine stopped coming in, around 2015, he and his company began piling up debt and financial woes.

Laporta was granted immunity to testify. Such accounts must be reported to tax authorities if they contain $US10,000 or more.

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Trump has made his concern over the Manafort trial clear in public as well as in private, posting to his Twitter account on multiple occasions.

The August 3 testimony by Cindy Laporta - on the fourth day of Manafort's criminal trial - shed further light on Manafort's complicated finances and the income he earned primarily as a political consultant for Ukrainian politicians, including former President Viktor Yanukovych.

They also testified that they often did not receive the underlying documentation they requested to support transactions that Manafort and Gates falsely characterized as loans on Manafort's tax returns and financial statements.

LaPorta is one of five witnesses called by the prosecution - led by special counsel Robert Mueller - that Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia granted immunity to last week. "One, I could have refused to file the tax returns, which could have exposed our firm to potential legal liability", she told the court.

Kevin Downing, Manafort's attorney, signaled on Friday that his defense strategy might also involve raising questions about whether Manafort in fact had willfully deceived his accountants.

Laporta said the move likely saved Manafort $400,000 to $500,000 in taxes. While most customers paid by check, Katzman said, Manafort was their only customer at that time who paid by wire transfers from foreign bank accounts.

Ayliff testified that Manafort pressed him to tell bankers considering a loan application that one of Manafort's NY properties was being used as a personal residence when in fact he was renting it out.

Trump lashed out over Mueller's probe in several tweets over the past week, escalating his attacks by calling on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsObstruction of justice bombshell will explode before midterms Trump thinks he can convince Mueller team that Russian Federation probe is a witch hunt: report Trump gives thumbs up to prison sentencing reform bill at pivotal meeting MORE to "shut down" the investigation. He said Manafort was the only business client of his who paid via worldwide wire transfer.

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