Airbnb Exec Details Manafort’s Haul With SoHo Condo

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – In the same month that Paul Manafort was seeking a mortgage on his Manhattan apartment, the condominium’s Airbnb rental listing was deactivated, a witness from the travel website confirmed Thursday on the witness stand.

Paul Manafort leaves the federal courthouse in Washington on Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Taking the stand on Day 8 of the tax-evasion trial brought by Robert Mueller, with the special prosecutor’s office, Airbnb executive Darin Evenson said Manafort’s listing described an “amazing full-floor loft in SoHo.”

Except for a month between Feb. 26, 2016, and March 26, 2016, the condo was displayed on Airbnb consistently between January 2015 and April 2016, said Evenson, whose title at Airbnb is director of customer experience for North America.

That month-long break coincides with the time when Manafort was seeking a mortgage on the property — an overlap that Manafort’s jury heard about earlier today from Citizens Bank witness Melinda James.

To the bank, James testified, Manafort described his Howard Street condo as a second home shared between himself, his wife, his daughter and his son-in-law. He had not checked a box on his mortgage application indicating that he used the apartment as a rental property.

Evenson said Manafort’s son-in-law was listed as the owner of the Airbnb account that rented out the condo and that he had not set a limit for how long a guest could reserve the property. One guest in June 2015 booked the property for 21 nights, a stay that paid out more than $11,000 after deducting Airbnb’s fees.

Though James did not search for the property on Airbnb, she said she did find search results while processing Manafort’s mortgage application that listed the property as a rental. James said that if Manafort was using the property as a rental instead of as his second home, it would have affected the terms of the mortgage.

James also testified her boss made it clear to the former Trump campaign chief that appraisers looking at the property in early 2016 as part of the mortgage application needed to see it was not being used as a rental unit.

Under cross-examination, James testified she did not know if Manafort knew the property was listed as a rental.

A tax preparer who appeared as a witness earlier in the trial also described uncertainty about whether Manafort used the Howard Street property as a second home or as a rental.

In addition to confusion about how Manafort was using the home, James also testified to troubles Citizens Bank had in determining whether Manafort had any outstanding mortgages on the other properties he owned. Reading over a series of emails from early 2016, James said Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates sent the bank insurance documents that indicated there was a mortgage on Manafort’s property on Union Street in New York at the time he was seeking the mortgage on the Howard Street condo.

Manafort clarified in a Feb. 24, 2016, email that the Union Street property had been approved for a mortgage “this month.”

Gates told James later that same day that Manafort had decided not to go forward with the Union Street mortgage and sent along insurance documents that showed the property was clear of any mortgage.

Though James said it was her belief at the end of that day that there was no mortgage on the Union Street property, she told Manafort’s attorney Jay Nanavati on cross-examination that Manafort’s clarification led her to believe there was a mortgage on the Union Street property. It was only after her conversation with Gates that things “went off the rails,” she said

The new insurance documents Gates sent were dated October 2015, while the earlier documents Gates gave to the bank that showed there was a mortgage were for a policy in effect from December 2015 to December 2016.

James testified she did not realize the second batch of insurance documents Gates sent was not the most current for the property.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III typically concludes the day’s proceedings at about 5:30.

This story is developing…

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