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Bank official recalls red flags on Manafort loan application

Members of the defense team for Paul Manafort, including Kevin Downing, left, Richard Westling, and Thomas Zehnle, walk to federal court as the trial of the former Trump campaign chairman continues, in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
Members of the defense team for Paul Manafort, including Kevin Downing, left, Richard Westling, and Thomas Zehnle, walk to federal court as the trial of the former Trump campaign chairman continues, in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A bank executive said he found several red flags with Paul Manafort’s finances while the former Trump campaign chairman was being considered for $16.5 million in bank loans.

The testimony, on the 10th day of Manafort’s financial fraud trial, comes as the prosecution is expected to rest its case later Monday.

James Brennan, a vice president at Federal Savings Bank, says Manafort failed to disclose mortgages on his loan application. He said he also found several “inconsistencies” in the amount of income Manafort reported for his business.

That information led senior executives to reject one of the loans. But Brennan says that rejection was overruled by Federal Savings Bank chairman Stephen Calk. Other witnesses have said Calk pushed the loans through because he wanted a plum post in the Trump administration.

Brennan told jurors he directed one of his employees to document the problems with Manafort’s finances as it was considering a $9.5 million loan related to his estate in the Hamptons. Based on Brennan’s findings, bank president Javier Ubarri initially rejected the loan, he said.

But Brennan said that decision was overruled by Calk.

“It closed because Mr. Calk wanted it to close,” Brennan told jurors.

Brennan, who testified under an immunity deal, said the bank found several problems with the information Manafort provided that should have raised questions about his character and whether he was providing inaccurate information to obtain the loans.

Chief among those problems, Brennan testified, was that Manafort failed to disclose that he had defaulted on two of his loans.

Manafort checked “no” when asked on his loan application if any of his other loans were in default. But in fact, Brennan testified, Manafort was in default for a $5.7 million loan he had taken out for a Los Angeles property and had also stopped paying on a $6.5 million loan on a New York residence.

Brennan said there also were other “red flags” that made Manafort’s loan application look shaky. There were discrepancies between the income his company listed on a 2015 profit and loan statement and the income listed in Manafort’s 2015 tax return. And Brennan was concerned about an unpaid $300,000 American Express card debt for luxury New York Yankees season tickets.

Prosecutors said Friday that they would wrap up their case against Manafort on Monday. Defense lawyers have not said whether they expect to call any witnesses after that.

The proceedings were halted for hours on Friday by mysterious backstage discussions between the judge and attorneys for both sides. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III recessed the trial without explanation after huddling with his bailiff and attorneys from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and Manafort’s lawyers for more than 20 minutes.

At one point, Ellis left the courtroom and headed toward the jury room. After bringing court back into session, he reminded jurors several times that they weren’t to discuss the tax evasion and bank fraud case at all. That included telling them to not even comment on the attire of any witnesses.


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