ALEXANDRIA, Va. - One of Paul Manafortâ€™s tax preparers admitted Friday that she helped disguise $900,000 in foreign income as a loan in order to reduce the former Trump campaign chairmanâ€™s tax burden.
The testimony of tax preparer Cindy Laporta came as prosecutors from special counsel Robert Muellerâ€™s office focused on the heart of their financial fraud case against Manafort, with jurors hearing testimony that he inflated his business income by millions of dollars and concealed foreign bank accounts he was using to buy luxury items and pay personal expenses.
Manafortâ€™s defense has sought to blame any criminal conduct on his longtime deputy Rick Gates, while witnesses for the prosecution have testified that Manafort was heavily involved in his own finances and personally directed Gatesâ€™ actions.
On Friday, Laporta acknowledged that she agreed under pressure from Gates during a conference call in September 2015 to alter a tax document for one of Manafortâ€™s businesses to show the $900,000 loan.
When Laporta and a colleague provided an assessment of how much tax Manafort would owe, Gates responded that Manafort didnâ€™t have the money to pay it. After a back-and-forth discussion about how much income should be reclassified as a loan to aid Manafort, they settled on $900,000, she testified.
The result, Laporta said, was an altered tax payment that Gates told her â€ścould be paid by Mr. Manafort.â€ť
Laporta, who testified under a grant of immunity from prosecutors, said she knew what she did was â€śnot appropriate,â€ť adding that â€śyou canâ€™t pick and choose whatâ€™s a loan and whatâ€™s income.â€ť
That testimony is important as prosecutors try to rebut defense arguments that Manafort canâ€™t be responsible for financial fraud because he left the details of his spending to others.
Those others include Gates, who pleaded guilty earlier this year and is expected to testify soon as the governmentâ€™s star witness.
Manafort faces charges of bank fraud and tax evasion that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. Itâ€™s the first courtroom test of Muellerâ€™s team, which is tasked with looking into Russiaâ€™s efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election and whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with the Kremlin to sway voters.
In Fridayâ€™s testimony, and throughout the trial thus far, neither Trump nor Russia has been discussed, as evidence has focused on Manafortâ€™s work as a consultant in the years before he joined Trumpâ€™s campaign in the presidential year.