Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, and a business associate were indicted on 12 counts by a federal grand jury on Monday and the pair face steep criminal penalties if convicted.
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The money laundering charge alone could send Manafort to jail for more than a decade, according to criminal defense attorney Brian Claypool.
“Possible federal jail time to this crime alone is 14 years and it depends in large part on the amount of the money that was laundered,” Claypool told FOX Business. “Defending Manafort on this charge is going to be daunting for his criminal defense lawyers because [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller’s team likely has ‘tangible evidence’ to support the trail of transfer of money, via money wire transfer orders and/or actual bank statements. This is devastating for Manafort.”
Money laundering has been a federal crime since the implementation of The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, Claypool pointed out. As defined by the statute, money laundering is the act of engaging in a “transaction” to conceal the source, ownership or control of the income. The definition of the word “transaction” is very broad, which is why the charge could be very damaging to Manafort.
How much time the former campaign chair spends in jail will also depend on the magnitude of the money laundering scheme, Claypool said.
“If this was an ‘elaborate’ scheme involving shell or sham companies to funnel money to avoid taxes, the sentencing for Manafort is likely to be higher,” he said.
The indictment alleges that Manafort funneled money over the course of 10 years, from 2006 to 2016, through both foreign and domestic corporations, partnerships and bank accounts. The pair are accused of hiding the existence of the foreign companies and bank accounts from the U.S. government, and Manafort allegedly used “his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income.”
According to indictment, Manafort laundered more than $18 million, which he then used to buy real-estate, goods and services in the United States. His associate, Richard Gates, is accused of laundering $3 million. In total, more than $75 million flowed through the pair’s offshore accounts, according to the charges.
While none of the charges against Manafort have to do with the Trump administration or Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the indictment will likely play into a broader strategy by Special Counsel Mueller to crack down on others.
“Mueller hopes to get Manafort to cop a plea deal and come forward with credible info to indict … even bigger fish. This is such a serious charge [if lots of money was involved] that it may work if Manafort truly has damming evidence against other Trump associates,” Claypool said.