Bankers’ testimony could loom large in Manafort trial

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Current and former employees of three banks are listed as potential witnesses for the prosecution at Paul Manafort’s trial, which is scheduled to start in Virginia on Tuesday.

Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chair, faces charges of bank fraud and tax fraud. The veteran political operative is seen as a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Prosecutors on Friday filed a list of 35 potential trial witnesses. The list includes current and former employees of Citizens Financial Group, Banc of California and The Federal Savings Bank.

One name that is not on the list is Stephen Calk, the chief executive of Federal Savings, a small Chicago-based bank that lent more than $16 million to Manafort.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chair, faces charges of bank and fraud. His trial begins Tuesday in Virginia. Boomberg News

In previous court filings, prosecutors have asserted that an unnamed banker who matches Calk’s description snagged a spot on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory team in exchange for providing millions of dollars in loans to Manafort.

Calk has not been accused of any wrongdoing. The bank has portrayed itself as a victim of Manafort’s fraudulent conduct, while also saying that it is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

Even though Calk is not on the prosecution’s witness list, the upcoming trial may still feature testimony about his bank’s dealings with Manafort.

Two potential prosecution witnesses — Dennis Raico and James Brennan — appear to have worked for Federal Savings. Both of them have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.

Also on the prosecution’s list of potential witnesses is Taryn Rodriguez, whose LinkedIn profile identifies her as a relationship manager for Providence, R.I.-based Citizens.

Prosecutors have alleged that an unnamed bank — identified in media reports as Citizens — lent $3.4 million to Manafort after he provided fraudulent documents.

A Citizens spokesman said Friday: “While it’s our policy not to comment on ongoing litigation, we believe the evidence will clearly show that Citizens Bank did not engage in any wrongdoing and that we followed appropriate procedures.”

The prosecution’s list of potential witnesses also includes both Gary Seferian, who is an employee of Banc of California, and Kevin LaPorte, who is a former employee of the Santa Ana, Calif., bank.

Buzzfeed reported in March that Banc of California closed two accounts for a company that Manafort co-owned after determining that certain transactions were suspicious.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to both the charges in Virginia as well as separate charges in the District of Columbia that include conspiracy to launder money.

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack is a California-based reporter for American Banker who covers the U.S. consumer finance industry.

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