‘He Did This for No Other Reason Than Greed’: Everything We Learned From Mueller’s Scolding of Paul Manafort

Special counsel Robert Mueller filed on Friday to let U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III know that he was ready to sentence Paul Manafort in the Eastern District of Virginia, and ASAP.

Mueller filed a sentencing memo as promised Friday evening. The overarching theme of Manafort’s sentencing memo is that actions have consequences. There was scarcely a wasted opportunity when it came to mentioning everything Manafort had going for him and lost: he was highly educated, a member of the legal profession, successful. And yet — “sophisticated” in his schemes, driven by “greed” and “brazen” in his offenses.

No One Is Above the Law

Indeed, the special counsel recommended between 19.5 and 24 for bank and tax fraud crimes. The government made sure to emphasize that tax crimes needed to be prosecuted and people needed to be incarcerated for them, “particularly in a matter that received national attention.”

The government said that Manafort’s crimes followed lavish spending and excess, and were the work of someone who acted “as if he were above the law.” They note the stark contrast between this and the person who attended Georgetown University for college and law school, became a lawyer, and became a successful political consultant.

“[W]hile some of these offenses are commonly prosecuted, there was nothing ordinary about the millions of dollars involved in the defendant’s crimes, the duration of his criminal conduct, or the sophistication of his schemes,” the filing said. “Manafort committed these crimes over an extended period of time, from at least 2010 to 2016. His criminal decisions were not momentary or limited in time; they were routine.”

Mueller said “Neither the Probation Department nor the government is aware of any mitigating factors.” The government noted Manafort “did not commit these crimes out of necessity or hardship. He was well educated, professionally successful, and financially well off.”

“He nonetheless cheated the United States Treasury and the public out of more than $6 million in taxes at a time when he had substantial resources,” Mueller continued. “Manafort committed bank fraud to supplement his liquidity because his lavish spending exhausted his substantial cash resources when his overseas income dwindled.”

Prosecutors said that Manafort’s criminality was “brazen.” One example provided: “[D]efendant’s involvement in an obstruction of justice conspiracy between February 23, 2018 and April 2018—a crime Manafort committed while under indictment in two jurisdictions and subject to court-ordered bail conditions in each.”

The government also provided an example of Manafort’s inability to accept responsibility: “Finally, the defendant’s failure to file the required financial information with theProbation Department, in either district, is further evidence of his failure to accept responsibility, particularly here, where the defendant was convicted of financial crimes, including hiding his income and assets.”

These Were Complex Schemes 

They said Manafort tried to present his crimes as the work of a low-level operator, but the government insisted Manafort was not “ham-handed.”

“[Manafort] objects on the grounds that ‘there was nothing complex about simply lying to the banks,’ and that the falsified documents were ‘simple or ham-handed,'” the government said. “Manafort is wrong; even if some of Manafort’s conduct may have been ham-handed not all of it was.”

In fact, Mueller argued that Manafort was a prime candidate for sentencing enhancement due to the “sophisticated” nature of the offenses — again, sophistication Manafort denied.

Here’s how “sophistication” was defined in this context:

[E]specially complex or especially intricate offense conduct pertaining to the execution or concealment of an offense. For example, in a telemarketing scheme, locating the main office of the scheme in one jurisdiction but locating soliciting operations in another jurisdiction ordinarily indicates sophisticated means. Conduct such as hiding assets or transactions, or both, through the use of fictitious entities, corporate shells, or offshore financial accounts also ordinarily indicates sophisticated means.

The Nature of the Crimes

The special counsel detailed the “longstanding” and “bold” criminal conduct Manafort engaged in over a period of years. This was described as “premeditated” and the “product” of many years of planning. In the end, Manafort was “almost always the exclusive beneficiary”:

Manafort’s criminal conduct was serious, longstanding, and bold. He failed to pay taxes in five successive years involving more than $16 million in unreported income—and failed to identify his overseas accounts in those same returns—resulting in more than $6 million in unpaid taxes. In four successive years from 2011 to 2014, Manafort failed to report his overseas accounts to the Treasury Department, and over that period he maintained 31 accounts in three foreign countries collectively holding more than $55 million in multiple currencies. As for his bank fraud offenses, Manafort defrauded not one financial institution but three, and sought five loans from those banks, seeking more than $25 million.

As noted, these were not short-lived schemes. Manafort’s crimes were the product of his planning and premeditation over many years, and a result of his direct and willful conduct. Manafort’s tax crimes by any account were serious, and more serious than most given the amount of money at issue and the fact that his failure to pay the taxes owed was not caused by any necessity but simple greed. Manafort had ample funds to cover these tax payments. He simply chose not to comply with laws that would reduce his wealth. And along the way, each year, in order to successfully implement the tax scheme the defendant involved numerous other people, including both witting and unwitting participants. In every scheme, Manafort was always the principal, and almost always the exclusive beneficiary.

The government contended that Manafort does not deserve to receive a reduced sentenced due to his age (69) because his chance to reoffend if gone unchecked is high.

“Manafort’s age does not eliminate the risk of recidivism he poses—particularly given that his pattern of criminal activity has occurred over more than a decade and that the most recent crimes he pled guilty to occurred from February to April 2018, when he conspired to tamper with witnesses at a time when he was under indictment in two separate districts,” Mueller continued. The special counsel then noted that Judge Amy Berman Jackson just agreed that Manafort lied in breach of his plea agreement, and that Manafort’s misconduct “continued as recently as October 2018 when he repeatedly and intentionally lied to the government during proffer sessions and the grand jury.”

But Why? This Didn’t Have to Happen…

In closing, the special counsel stressed that a) deterrence was an important aim of this sentence and b) that Manafort did this for “no other reason than greed”:

“The sentence should serve to promote respect for the law and to afford both adequate specific and general deterrence as intended by Congress. With respect to general deterrence, the sentence should send a clear message that repeated choices to commit serious economic crimes have serious consequences, particularly in a matter that received national attention. For a decade, Manafort repeatedly violated the law. Considering only the crimes charged in this district, they make plain that Manafort chose to engage in a sophisticated scheme to hide millions of dollars from United States authorities. And when his foreign income stream dissipated in 2015, he chose to engage in a series of bank frauds in the United States to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, at the expense of various financial institutions. Manafort chose to do this for no other reason than greed, evidencing his belief that the law does not apply to him. Manafort solicited numerous professionals and others to reap his ill-gotten gains.

Additional Context

In an earlier filing Friday, Mueller added a line indicating that he was moving along quickly with the sentencing process. Manafort was convicted of eight felony bank and tax fraud counts in Aug. 2018 in Judge Ellis’ courtroom. An additional 10 counts were hung counts and a mistrial was declared.

“The government expects to file today its sentencing submission for the court’s consideration,” Mueller said, just a couple of days after Judge Jackson determined that Manafort lied on multiple occasions in breach of a plea deal with the special counsel.

Mueller mentioned this decision from Jackson and said “Because the DC Court has determined that Manafort intentionally lied to the government, and the breach of the agreement was conceded by the defendant and found by the DC Court, the government submits there are no outstanding issues warranting delay in proceeding to sentencing before this Court.”

“The government is prepared for sentencing at the Court’s earliest convenience,” he added.

Manafort’s attorneys replied to the special counsel’s status report on Friday afternoon and asked Ellis to review everything that happened behind closed doors in D.C. because the redacted versions the public saw don’t suffice as explainers.

“[D]efendant respectfully asks the Court, when reviewing the plea agreement breach and false statement litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to review the submissions of the parties, the hearing transcript, and the transcript of the ruling in unredacted form,” they said. “The information redacted from the public versions of these documents is critical to the consideration of the issues raised during that litigation.”

“Mr. Manafort further requests that the Court set a status conference to schedule a sentencing date and dates for the filing of any pleadings relating to the sentencing,” they continued.

Then came the memo:

Mueller’s sentencing me… by on Scribd

[Image via Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images]

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