In a major building block for the prosecution of former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort, prosecutors put on the stand his accountant who demanded a grant of immunity because he admitted to filing returns for Manafort that he believed to be fraudulent. All however did not go as well for the prosecutors after the judge again lashed out at prosecutors of their effort to use Manafort’s opulent lifestyle to poison the jury.
Cindy Laporta, an accountant with Kositzka Wicks & Co., admitted that she doubted the truth of the tax filings but filed them anyway. She was suspicious of money transferred into the international political consulting business that Manafort and his aide Rich Gates. She specifically treated the money as $2.4 million loans from offshore businesses. Neither Manafort nor Gates would give her proof that these were actual loans. She also was allegedly told by Gates to reduce Manafort’s income so he could pay his taxes by not counting his loans.
The push back on prosecutors came with the testimony of another accountant, J. Philip Ayliff, also Kositzka, Wicks and Co. Surprisingly, this was reportedly an unnoticed expert witness who was then asked to given expert testimony. Judge T.S. Ellis caught off the questioning. After a long discussed at the bench, it was decided the question would wait to be addressed later. However, U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye asked about another term of art contained on federal tax forms. That is another question that would normally go to an expert witness. Ellis promptly declared that the court would recess early. Ellis explained that there was prior agreement on the meaning of the term and again this was not a properly noticed witness.
Even with the tension between the prosecutors and the court, it was still a bad day for Manafort.