Michael Cohen's longtime business associate strikes deal to cooperate with investigators

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A NY taxi operator pleaded guilty Tuesday to improperly pocketing $5 million in state tax money and has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors as they investigate President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, according to a person familiar with the case.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's administration demands a refutation of false reports that a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump past year was "paid by Ukraine".

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is distancing himself from an associate in the taxi industry who pleaded guilty to tax fraud. He declared bankruptcy on some of his medallions in 2016 and past year was charged by the NY state attorney general with theft. "Neither I nor any of our staff know, or have been in contact with, any current or former members of the Ukrainian parliament, nor Michael Cohen", Rabbi Shalom Paltiel of Chabad of Port Washington told The Jerusalem Post. Freidman managed cabs for Cohen-the embattled attorney had at least 34 medallions to his name-and agreed to talk to investigators as part of a deal to downgrade state charges that he skipped out on $5 million owed to the government, which could have sent him to prison for 25 years.

The BBC suggests that Poroshenko made the move to help Trump, not because the president asked for it. Trump is also said to have been unaware of the alleged payment to Cohen. "Friedman pocketed money that should have provided much-needed investment in our transit system and he'll now have to pay back every cent".

Michael Volkov, a defense attorney at The Volkov Law Group, sounded a grim note on Cohen's legal prospects after the deal had been struck.

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"I am one of thousands of medallion owners who entrust management companies to operate my medallions according to the rules of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission", Cohen wrote on his Twitter account.

It suggests that Cohen broke a USA law requiring people to register as lobbyists for foreign governments. He's a Russian immigrant who once owned over 800 taxi medallions. He was called the taxi king in NY. "This is a very hard day for myself and my family", Freidman said to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who read the statement out loud on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360".

Freidman has also been sued for other shady business acts.

One source in Kiev said Mr Poroshenko had given Mr Trump "a gift" - making sure that Ukraine would find no more evidence to give the United States inquiry into whether the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russian Federation.

In a 2017 profile of Cohen, the Real Deal reported that he and Freidman became friends after "sparring over a stolen client" with one another in small claims court in the 1990s.

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