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Manafort Trial Day 4: Bank Fraud And Bookkeepers

Heather Washkuhn, a bookkeeper for Paul Manafort, told the jury that she had no knowledge of the offshore companies and bank accounts that prosecutors say Manafort used to spend millions of dollars without being taxed over the last decade.

Updated at 10:12 a.m. ET

Paul Manafort's federal trial has now entered the alleged bank fraud section.

The former Trump campaign chairman's trial is entering its fourth day Friday in Alexandria, Va., with the spotlight moving away from his lavish spending habits and onto how prosecutors say he concealed information from his financial record-keepers and lied about his income to acquire loans.

Manafort is charged with 18 counts of conspiracy, tax and bank fraud. His trial is the first to make its way to jurors after indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Friday begins with further testimony from Philip Ayliff, a longtime tax accountant for Manafort. Ayliff testified Thursday that although Manafort was provided an outlet to disclose foreign bank accounts, he did not do so.

"We asked the question and the response was no," Ayliff said.

Prosecutors say Manafort used the offshore bank accounts, based mainly in Cyprus, to purchase millions of dollars of goods and services and avoided paying taxes on the money he received for political consulting work he did in Ukraine.

Ayliff and another bookkeeper who worked with Manafort, Heather Washkuhn, were the only two witnesses to testify Thursday afternoon. Washkuhn cut into one of the defense's main arguments: that Manafort wasn't involved with his own finances at a granular level and that his former business partner Rick Gates is responsible for the bank and tax fraud.

"I would say [Manafort] was very knowledgeable; he was very detail oriented," Washkuhn said. "He approved every penny of every thing we paid."

Washkuhn also detailed how after Manafort's political consulting money from Ukraine stopped coming in, around 2015, he and his company began piling up debt and financial woes. Prosecutors say this is when Manafort lied to banks to get loans, to continue paying for the sort of luxury items witnesses detailed earlier in the week.

Emails shown in court showed Washkuhn desperately trying to get Manafort to pay his bills — at one point warning that his company's health insurance plan was going to be canceled because the bill had not been paid. Washkuhn was also shown a financial document sent to a bank. She said it claimed Manafort's company brought in millions of dollars more in income than documents her company created.

The trial resumed Friday morning. The jury was granted permission by Judge T.S. Ellis III to bring a birthday cake to the courthouse, presumably to celebrate the birthday of one of the jurors.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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