Prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office have prepared a criminal case against Paul Manafort in the event that he receives a presidential pardon, Bloomberg News reported Friday.
The district attorney’s office, led by Cy Vance, has been investigating Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, since 2017 in connection with loans he received from two banks, and has been pursuing other cases against Trump-related figures since around that time, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In recent weeks, the district attorney’s case has shown signs of advancement, with prosecutors having issued a subpoena for documents to Manafort’s longtime accounting firm — Kositzka, Wicks and Company — a key player in the financial fraud case against Manafort for which he was convicted by a federal jury, according to a person familiar.
There has been much public speculation that Manafort might seek and receive a pardon, but there is no firm evidence that such a step is in the works. Prosecutors with the special counsel’s office said during a recent hearing that Manafort may have been motivated by the prospect of a pardon when he lied during interviews. Andrew Weissman, one of the prosecutors, said that Manafort may have lied because he did not want “negative consequences in terms of the other motive that Mr. Manafort could have, which is to at least augment his chances for a pardon.”
Though Trump said late last year that he hadn’t discussed a potential pardon for Manafort, he also acknowledged that the possibility wasn’t “off the table.” Trump has significant leeway to issue pardons for federal crimes, but he can’t do so for state cases.
Vance’s office is not the only state-level prosecutor’s office to hedge against a potential pardon: the New York state attorney general’s office has also been putting together a case against Manafort, and that case has remained open as recently as late last year, according to a law-enforcement official familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for Vance declined to comment to CNN. A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.
Manafort was convicted on eight financial-related charges in a Virginia federal court in August, then pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy against the US and witness tampering in September. He is scheduled to be sentenced in both cases next month.
One of the loans under scrutiny by the district attorney’s office was issued by Citizens Bank, which has been cooperating with the investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter. Manafort was found guilty in the Virginia trial of having defrauded Citizens, after he was charged with misleading the bank to obtain a $3.4 million loan on a condo he owned in SoHo.
To obtain the loan, Manafort falsely told the bank the condo was his “second home” and not an investment property, according to testimony at his criminal trial in Virginia. Manafort was renting the two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on Airbnb but took the listing down when applying for the mortgage.
A Citizens Bank underwriting manager testified at the trial that the loan far exceeded the bank’s $1 million loan policy for investment properties and Manafort never would have been given nearly three times that amount had they known the truth.
Double jeopardy laws generally prevent defendants from being prosecuted twice for the same offense, and the New York state double jeopardy law prohibits bringing state criminal charges that have been brought in another jurisdiction or any charge arising out of the same criminal transaction. That means Vance may be extremely limited in the charges he could bring against Manafort.
Some former officials expressed skepticism regarding the likelihood of successfully bringing a state case, given double jeopardy concerns.
“Getting past state double jeopardy is an uphill battle for prosecutors,” said Daniel R. Alonso, the former chief assistant district attorney in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, who is now managing director and general counsel at Exiger.
New York, however, does has a tax-related carveout to its double jeopardy law, meaning Vance could file tax-related charges that could still be prosecuted even with Manafort’s conviction in federal court on similar charges.
In order for a New York state tax charge to carry mandatory prison time, however, the defendant must have evaded at least $1 million of state tax liability in a period of not more than one year, according to Alonso.
The district attorney’s prospective case against Manafort comes after Vance’s prosecutors had been working with the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles to pursue a case against Manafort’s former son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, according to a person familiar with the matter. It’s not clear what happened with the district attorney’s role in that, but Yohai was later charged by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.