Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is accused of withholding fees last week from the team of lawyers defending him from bank and tax fraud charges so he could buy a $2.1 million home in McLean, Va.
The charges, filed today by Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lead defense lawyer, says he and six other lawyers were due to be paid $57,000 for their legal work on Manafort’s behalf for the last two weeks but the money instead went to American Title Company as an earnest money deposit on the 2,000-square-foot house, which would be Manafort’s 14th.
Downing says he hopes to settle the dispute amicably outside of court, but he’s filing the charges to put Manafort on notice that the long-time political operative and international campaign consultant must pay his legal bills.
“I am confident we can work this out in a timely manner, and the charges we filed today are part of our good-faith effort to find a resolution quickly,” said Downing in a statement.
The lawyer couldn’t be reached for further comment because he’s preparing for the third week of Manafort’s trial, which starts on Monday. Manafort has been accused of bank and tax fraud involving tens of millions of dollars he received in the past decade, much of it from Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs who are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The charges were filed by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to look at collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort is known for his lavish lifestyle. In addition to spending on his many houses, he has spent more than $1 million on clothes, including jackets made out of ostrich and python skins.
The fraud trial has transfixed official Washington and the nation as a whole. Prosecutors have painted a picture of a man who created a complicated web of offshore bank accounts to move money from one part of his operation to another while he tried to stave off bankruptcy. Manafort faces life in prison should he be found guilty of all charges.
April Dixby, the real estate agent representing Manafort on the purchase of the McLean house, says her client is hoping to obtain a purchase-rehab loan for $2.7 million so he can expand the kitchen and add a family room. He also wants to add a stand-alone garage, replace the paving stones in the front yard, and put in a wood-fired pizza oven in the backyard.
“$2.1 million is actually a very good price for the home,” says Dixby. “The previous owner bought it for $1.2 million, but he really fixed up the bathrooms and put in granite countertops in the kitchen. Plus it has a new roof.”
Dixby says she hopes Manafort’s trial will be over by the August 30 closing date because the process always goes smoother when the buyer can be there in person to sign the papers. The alternative is to get his signatures in prison, which is a challenge because a notary has to be present.
A spokesperson for Manafort said he’s not worried about coming up with the $225,000 down payment, ]because he has plenty of money in a Cyprus account the government hasn’t learned about yet.
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