Paul Manafort could face a decade in prison after a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, found him guilty of bank fraud and tax crimes, legal experts say.
President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman was convicted Tuesday on eight counts out of the 18 he was charged with, in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s first courtroom test. Jurors found he lied to tax authorities about tens of millions of dollars he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine and lied to banks about his financial health to get loans. They deadlocked on five conspiracy counts and five other charges.
“He’s going to have to rely upon the judge’s mercy,” said A. Jeff Ifrah, a white-collar attorney at Ifrah PLLC and the co-author of “Federal Sentencing for Business Crimes.”
“A case of fraud this size is not your everyday garden vegetable in Virginia,” Ifrah said. “I do think that 10 years is on the table here.”
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis held off on setting a date for sentencing to give the prosecution time to decide whether to retry him on the mistrial counts. Once that’s settled, Ellis will fashion a sentence using federal guidelines that take into account the size of a fraud, the duration of the scheme and Manafort’s role in the crimes.
While guidelines aren’t binding, Ellis may also consider Manafort’s personal history, health concerns, family circumstances and any sign of remorse in arriving at a more lenient penalty.
Ellis gave the prosecution an Aug. 29 deadline to decide on those 10 counts.
In a court filing this year, Mueller hinted at what kind of penalty he thinks Manafort should face. The special counsel calculated that under the guidelines, the tax charges alone carried a prison term from eight to 10 years. Because Manafort obtained more than $1 million from each of four separate bank frauds, Mueller calculated that he should get 51 to 63 months on those charges.
The seriousness of the crimes means Manafort isn’t likely to win a term of house arrest or probation, said Ilene Jaroslaw, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, who is now a partner at Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney LLP.
“Manafort now has to face the real possibility that he’s going to prison for the rest of his natural life,” said Jaroslaw, who supervised Greg Andres, one of the prosecutors on Mueller’s team, when the two were in Brooklyn.
“If he has any assets in the U.S., the government can go after them,” Jaroslaw said.
Manafort is in even greater peril. Jaroslaw said she doubts Mueller will drop his second case against Manafort, who’s scheduled to go on trial next month in Washington for failing to disclose his lobbying for the pro-Russian government of ex-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The judge in that case jailed Manafort two months ago, fearing he might flee.
“Perhaps if this were a two-bit fraudster on trial and the prosecution felt that the punishment in this case was sufficient for all the fraudster’s criminal activity, then they might dismiss the second case,” Jaroslaw said. “Here, the Special Counsel’s office will not dismiss the D.C. indictment. If they’ve indicted, it means they’re ready for trial.”
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