- Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters
- Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort appeared to have difficulty converting a Microsoft Word document into a PDF, and it was one of the ways investigators found out about his alleged attempts to commit bank fraud.
- According to email exchanges cited by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, Manafort asked his longtime associate Rick Gates multiple times to convert falsified financial records into different file formats.
- Those exchanges are now being used by Mueller as evidence of Manafort’s and Gates’ illegal activities.
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Investigators were tipped off, in part, about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s illicit activities because he appeared not to know how to convert a PDF document to a Word document.
On Thursday, special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, charged Manafort and his longtime associate Rick Gates in a superseding indictment of financial crimes and misconduct related to tax and bank fraud.
At one point, according to the indictment, the pair allegedly emailed back and forth in October 2016 while conspiring to commit bank fraud.
As he was preparing a profit-and-loss (P&L) statement to submit to a bank lender in an effort to secure a loan, Manafort allegedly inflated his income so he could more easily qualify for loans to his company, Davis Manafort Partners, Inc.
The indictment claims Manafort first sent a PDF version of the real P&L statement to Gates and asked for his help in converting the file to a Word document so it could be edited. Gates allegedly converted the file and sent the Word document back to Manafort so he could make changes to it. Manafort then took out a portion of the statement showing a loss of more than $600,000 and replaced it with one fraudulently showing he profited with more than $3.5 million in income.
Manafort sent the edited Word document back to Gates and “asked that the ‘Word’ document be converted back to a .pdf, which Gates did and returned to Manafort,” the indictment said.
The entire exchange occurred over email, giving investigators a clear paper trail to follow as they uncovered exactly how and when Manafort and Gates attempted to commit fraud.
“Fraud 101 – don’t send emails to your co-conspirators,” the longtime former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer previously told Business Insider. “I imagine the investigators saw those and couldn’t believe their luck.”
Mueller’s office alleges that more than $75 million flowed through Manafort’s and Gates’s offshore accounts, and that Manafort laundered over $18 million in undisclosed income with Gates’s assistance. Gates was accused of laundering about $3 million.
Gates pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts related to conspiracy against the US and making false statements to investigators during the course of the Russia investigation.
Manafort, meanwhile, has maintained his innocence.
“I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence,” Manafort said in a statement through his spokesperson following Gates’s guilty plea. “For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”