February 21, 2018 / 6:02 PM / 10 months ago

New sealed charges brought in case against ex-Trump campaign manager

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New sealed criminal charges have been filed in federal court in the case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against two of President Donald Trump’s former campaign officials, a court record indicated on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO - Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after a bond hearing as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia investigation, at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

The single-page document, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, did not reveal the nature of the new charges in the case involving former campaign manager Paul Manafort and aide Rick Gates.

Its inclusion in a binder in the court clerk’s office that is routinely updated with new criminal charges signals that Mueller’s office may have filed a superseding indictment replacing a previous one from last year against the two men.

Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager for almost five months in 2016, and Gates, who was deputy campaign manager, were indicted by Mueller’s office in October. They face charges including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the United States and failure to file as foreign agents for lobbying work they did on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions. Both have pleaded not guilty.

It was unclear when any new charges would be announced publicly.

Last Friday, Mueller’s office revealed in a court filing that it had uncovered “additional criminal conduct” by Manafort in connection with a series of “bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies” related to a mortgage on his property in Fairfax, Virginia, a Washington suburb.

Mueller is probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia and whether the Republican president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the investigation. Russia denies the allegations. Trump says there was no collusion.

The Special Counsel’s office declined to comment on the new court filing. Attorneys for Manafort and Gates could not be immediately reached for comment. A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.

Last year, U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russia had meddled in the election and that its goals eventually included aiding Trump who won a surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

HOUSE ARREST

Manafort has been under house arrest since he was charged. He and prosecutors have struggled to agree on bail terms to permit him to leave his home, though some of those details have remained under seal.

However, on Friday, Mueller’s office revealed that it is concerned about alleged bank fraud in connection with one of the properties that Manafort pledged as collateral.

In Friday’s filing, prosecutors claimed that Manafort secured his mortgage from the Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank by doctoring profit and loss statements from his lobbying firm and “overstating its income by millions of dollars.”

Prosecutors said they plan to offer the court more evidence about the alleged misconduct at the next bail hearing.

The Federal Savings Bank is led by Stephen Calk, who served on a Trump campaign economic advisory panel. Calk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mueller on Tuesday stepped up pressure on Manafort and Gates to cooperate in his investigation, unsealing a criminal charge against a Dutch lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, for lying to Mueller’s investigators.

The charge arises from work that van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men, did on a 2012 report about the trial of Ukraine’s former prime minister while he was employed as a lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

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The report was used to justify the pre-trial detention of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by her rival, and Manafort’s client, pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort and Gates lobbied in connection with the rollout of the report, and are accused by Mueller’s office of facilitating secret payments for the report through off-shore bank accounts.

Mueller’s office last Friday also indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for their alleged involvement in a criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Karen Freifeld; Editing by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell

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