Michael Cohen’s troubles are mounting, reports the Wall Street Journal, which claims the former Trump attorney is under investigation in New York over whether he committed tax fraud, according to “people familiar with the investigation.”
Federal authorities are analyzing whether Cohen failed to report all of the income from his taxi-medallion business, which included “hundreds of thousands of dollars received in cash and other payments over the last five years,” according to the Journal.
Investigators are also probing whether any bank employees improperly extended loans to Cohen without adequate documentation, and whether Cohen made false statements or misrepresentatio9ns on loan applications.
In particular, federal investigators are looking closely at Mr. Cohen’s relationship with Sterling National Bank—which provided financing for Mr. Cohen’s taxi-medallion business—including whether Mr. Cohen inflated the value of any of his assets as collateral for loans, according to people familiar with the matter.
Convictions for federal tax- and bank-fraud may carry potentially significant prison sentences, which could put additional pressure on Mr. Cohen to cooperate with prosecutors if he is charged with those crimes, according to former federal prosecutors. –WSJ
The feds have subpoenaed Cohen’s former accountant, Jeffrey A. Getzel, who had a direct hand in preparing many of Cohen’s financial statements which were submitted to banks, according to the Journal‘s sources. Getzel was also an accountant for Evgeny “Gene” Freidman, a taxi-medallion manager who worked with Cohen according to public court documents. Friedman is reportedly cooperating with federal prosecutors as part of the investigation, after pleading guilty earlier this year to a count of criminal tax fraud related to the taxi business.
Mr. Freidman, known as the “Taxi King,” began in around 2012 and 2013 to manage Mr. Cohen’s 32 medallions in New York, paying Mr. Cohen a fixed monthly rate and keeping the profit—or suffering any loss—from each medallion, according to a person familiar with their business relationship. –WSJ
Cohen’s new layer – longtime Clinton operative Lanny Davis, declined to comment “out of respect for the ongoing investigation” (though Davis has been more than happy to comment on the ongoing Trump investigation).
The FBI and Manhattan US Attorney’s Office have been investigating Cohen for bank fraud, campaign-finance violations and other potential crimes related to his personal business dealings, along with efforts to conceal claims by at least two women who say they had affairs with President Trump. The president has denied having sex with either woman; former Playboy model Karen McDougal, and Stormy Daniels – a former adult film star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
While Michael Cohen once described himself as Trump’s “fixer,” Cohen has persued his own ventures – including real estate, taxi medallions and personal loans.
As of April 2018, Mr. Cohen owned 22 medallions in Chicago, and either he or his wife, Laura, controlled 32 medallions in New York City, some of which were also owned at least partly by family members and others, according to public records.
As recently as 2014, taxi medallions were considered a rock-solid investment. The medallions, issued by a city agency and required for running a taxi, are bought and sold on a secondary market. Some licenses for taxi medallions in New York sold for an average $1.25 million per medallion in 2013 and 2014, according to bankruptcy filings.
But in recent years, their value has plummeted amid competition from ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. In a filing for a federal bankruptcy case in June 2017, Mr. Freidman said the estimated value of each medallion had dropped to approximately $200,000 to $225,000. –WSJ
Less than two weeks after Cohen’s home, office and hotel was raided by federal prosecutors at the behest of special counsel Robert Mueller, the former Trump attorney pledged his personal residence “through a $9 million mortgage on his apartment at Trump Park Avenue” – as collateral against millions of dollars in loans from Sterling National Bank which were taken out by he and his wife in 2014 against their taxi business.