An accountant for U.S. President Donald Trump’s one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort admitted in trial testimony on Friday that she helped backdate documents and falsify financial records at Manafort and his business partner’s request to reduce his tax burden and help him qualify for loans.
Cynthia Laporta, who prepared Manafort’s tax returns starting in 2014, told a jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, that she was testifying under an immunity agreement with the government to avoid being prosecuted as Manafort was charged with bank fraud and tax fraud.
One member of the jury nodded in apparent agreement when U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis cut off the prosecution’s questioning to ask her if she was afraid of being prosecuted herself.
“Correct,” answered Laporta, explaining that she went along with accounting maneuvers suggested by Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates because she did not want to create problems for her firm or lose a top client.
“I very much regret it,” Laporta said on the trial’s fourth day as prosecutors build their case that Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars he earned working for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine to evade taxes.
Laporta, the 14th witness to testify for the prosecution, was the most damaging yet for Manafort in the first trial arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, charges that largely pre-date the five months Manafort worked for Trump, some of them as campaign chairman.