Lawyers for Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, will face a major test on Monday when they cross-examine an accountant who testified that she helped Manafort to prepare fraudulent tax returns.
In calling Gates, the government will present jurors with the first-hand account of a co-conspirator expected to say Manafort was knee-deep in an alleged scheme to hide millions of dollars from the IRS and defraud several banks.
The trial entered its fourth day with more testimony about Mr. Manafort's suspicious financial transactions in the first trial to be brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.
On Thursday, prosecutors argued Manafort attempted to avoid taxes and hide income by routing funds from overseas accounts directly to vendors in the United States, including $900,000 to a men's clothing store over the course of five years.
For Mueller's team, the strategy is to show that Gates' version of events is supported by documents and other witnesses, and that this version of events contradicts Manafort's claims of innocence.
Manafort's attorneys have signalled they will seek to blame Gates and have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.
T.S. Ellis, a 78-year-old Reagan-appointed judge in the case known for colorful comments, said this week that the prosecution can not prove a key part of their case unless prosecutors call Gates to the stand. But that strategy was undercut a few times, as witnesses insisted Manafort was clearly in charge and aware of what they were doing.
But the most critical moment in the former Trump campaign chairman's financial fraud trial will arrive next week with the testimony of his longtime associate Rick Gates.
On Tuesday, Manafort's former bookkeeper Heather Washkuhn also testified that Manafort lied about his income to banks.
Late on Thursday, Manafort filed an objection to the government's bid to block his legal team from raising the fact that he and his companies were never audited by the Internal Revenue Service.
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Ayliff responded to Manafort that "we have always treated it as a rental".
Asked why she engaged in misconduct, Laporta said she had few good choices.
Prosecutors are trying to rebut defense arguments that Manafort can't be responsible for financial fraud because he left the details of his spending to others.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.
Asonye walked jurors through Manafort's tax returns on Friday to back the prosecution's claim that he hid his foreign accounts and income from USA tax authorities.
Manafort has a second trial scheduled for September in the District of Columbia.
"The real fireworks are going to come when Mr. Gates is on the stand and is crossed", said J. D. Evans, a retired attorney from Virginia who attended the trial last week.
"They must make headway in separating Gates and Manafort", Wu said. "You are not limited in your cross-examination of her", Ellis said.
Gates, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the special counsel, is expected to be the star prosecution witness.
"Rick said it was too high" and that Manafort "didn't have that money", Laporta said in response questions by prosecutor Uzo Asonye. Mr. Gates said he would "chase down signatures", an indication that the letter was fake. All three people said they were unaware Manafort controlled over a dozen offshore entities, many of which gave money to Manafort's political consulting firm. Prosecutors say between 2010 and 2014, Manafort made $60 million working for the Ukrainian government, hiding millions in foreign accounts so he didn't have to report his earnings to the IRS, and in 2015, Manafort's major client, former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, left for Russian Federation amid protests against the governor.