MANHATTAN (CN) - New York's top prosecutor indicted Paul Manafort on Wednesday afternoon, less than an hour after a federal judge lengthened the prison sentence awaiting the former Trump campaign chair.
Filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, the 16 new charges pertain to a yearlong residential mortgage fraud scheme. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance says Manafort, who turns 70 on April 1, falsified business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars.
In addition to conspiracy, Manafort faces multiple counts of residential mortgage fraud, attempted residential mortgage fraud, scheme to defraud and falsifying business records.
The indictment was released at about 12:35 p.m., just minutes after a federal judge in Washington sentenced Manafort for his guilty plea to obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Because Manafort was also convicted last year on multiple financial crimes in Virginia, he faces a 90-month prison term between the two convictions.
Held under wraps for the better part of two years, rumors of Vance’s investigation first trickled out shortly before Manafort’s sentencing in Virginia last week.
“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance declared in a statement.
Vance had been struggling to prove that principle in the wake of news reports suggesting that he backed off prosecuting disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the president’s scions Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., in an action critics tied to donations from their defense attorneys.
“Following an investigation commenced by our office in March 2017, a Manhattan grand jury has charged Mr. Manafort with state criminal violations which strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market,” Vance added.
The day after U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III gave Manafort a four-year sentence in Virginia, The New York Times and Bloomberg reported that Vance’s charges would serve as assurance that Trump could not pardon away his former campaign chair’s prison time.
Ellis, whose sentence fell far below the federal guidelines, sparked controversy by commending what he called Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life.”
New York court papers meanwhile offer tantalizingly few details about the extent of Manafort’s alleged conspiracies.
“The appraiser for Howard St is calling to make an appointment to view the condo,” Manafort is quoted telling an “Individual 1” in one email. “Could you please call [Individual #2] to arrange a time for him to access the apartment. Remember, he believes that you and [Individual #3] are living there.”
Federal prosecutors at Manafort’s trial in Virginia noted that Manafort described the Howard Street condo as a second home, when it had been continuously listed on the vacation rental site Airbnb.
After the deed to the condo was transferred to Manafort and his wife from MS Soho Holdings, one of Manafort's holding companies, the couple reportedly took out two loans totaling $3.4 million against the deed.
While federal prosecutors previously identified Trump as “Individual 1” in court papers, there is no indication that state prosecutors identified him the same way.
In another count, Manafort asked a sixth person to sign a letter stating: “Thank you for allowing me to use the AMEX Business Plum card to purchase season tickets for the 2016 baseball season.”
Irfan Kirimca, senior director of ticket operations for the New York Yankees, was the last witness called by the government in the Virginia case.
Prosecutors said that Manafort had trouble paying for his season tickets, using his ill-gotten gains to secure his box seats.
Manafort’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment. They are likely to challenge the charges under New York’s double-jeopardy law.
Under this statute, state prosecution for crimes heard by a federal jury “based upon the same act or criminal transaction” cannot proceed.
The Times reported last week that Vance’s office expressed confidence that they would win any double-jeopardy challenge by Manafort’s attorneys.
Manafort could face an additional 8 1/3 to 25 years if convicted of the top count against him in the indictment, which was filed on March 7.Follow @bleonardcns
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