Paul Manafort’s Accountant Testifies She Helped Alter Financial Documents

She also sent letters to banks noting that Mr. Manafort anticipated a $2.4 million payment by November 2016 for work in Ukraine. In fact, his Ukraine work for Mr. Yanukovych — whom prosecutors called Mr. Manafort’s “golden goose” — had ended at least a year earlier. Other financial records showed that Mr. Manafort’s company, DMP International, finished 2016 nearly $1.2 million in debt.

In other efforts to help Mr. Manafort, Ms. Laporta testified that she backed up his assertion that he was using his Manhattan condominium as a second home so that he could qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate from banks, even though records showed he had been renting the property on Airbnb to generate more cash.

Mr. Gates, who pleaded guilty this year to financial fraud and lying to federal authorities, is crucial to the outcome of the trial. Mr. Manafort’s lawyers are hoping to show that Mr. Gates is the real culprit and that Mr. Manafort is guilty of no more than negligence for not paying greater attention to Mr. Gates and other employees.

Like some of the other roughly dozen witnesses who have testified for the prosecution, Ms. Laporta seemed to treat Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates as one person. At one point on Friday, she referred to both of them as “the client.” But other witnesses, including Heather Washkuhn, Mr. Manafort’s bookkeeper, testified this week that while he relied on Mr. Gates, Mr. Manafort kept track of “every penny” of his finances.

Besides Ms. Laporta, four other witnesses have been given limited grants of immunity to testify against Mr. Manafort. Mr. Manafort’s lawyers are expected to delve into exactly what led Ms. Laporta, a veteran accountant who said she earned about $400,000 a year, to cooperate with prosecutors. But they have already signaled that Mr. Gates will be their main point of attack.

Ms. Laporta’s testimony was especially helpful to prosecutors because she was able to crystallize financial transactions that were otherwise befuddling, even to courtroom spectators steeped in the case. Short and soft-spoken, Ms. Laporta did not hide her suspicions that Mr. Manafort’s financial records had been doctored.

She clearly explained, for instance, why Mr. Gates asked — and she agreed — that she characterize $900,000 that had been previously reported as income as a loan to DMP International, which Mr. Manafort and his wife owned. Otherwise, Mr. Gates told her in a phone call, the tax bill was “too high” and Mr. Manafort “did not have that money.”

But since loans are not taxable, she said the change “resulted in a tax amount due that could be paid by Mr. Manafort.”

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