Paul Manafort and his protege, Richard Gates III, were indicted on a variety of charges, including conspiracy, failure to file requirement financial reports and the making of false statements. The indictment was signed by Special Counsel Mueller. A number of the allegations involve real estate transactions. Here are the highlights (lowlights?) of the allegations that document how money can be laundered through real estate:
Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income. Manafort, without reporting the income to his tax preparer or the United States, spent millions of dollars on luxury goods and services for himself and his extended family through payments wired from offshore nominee accounts to United States vendors. Manafort also used these offshore accounts to purchase multi-million dollar properties in the United Sates. Manafort then borrower millions of dollars in loans using these properties as collateral, thereby obtaining cash in the United States without reporting and paying taxes on the income. In order to increase the amount of money he could access in the United States, Manafort defrauded the institutions that loaned money on these properties so that they would lend him more money at more favorable rates than he would otherwise be able to obtain. (para 4)
More than $75,000,000 flowed through Manafort and Gate’s 15 offshore accounts. They also had 17 US corporations through which some of these funds flowed as well. In order to avoid paying taxes on this money, Manafort and Gates made millions of dollars in wire transfers to pay “for goods, services and real estate.” (para. 15) Manafort spent more than $12,000,000 on personal items including home improvement services, clothing, cars and housekeeping. He also bought four properties for over $6,000,000.
After Manafort bought these properties, “he took out mortgages on the properties thereby allowing Manafort to have the benefits of liquid income without paying taxes on it. Further, Manafort defrauded the banks that loaned him the money so that he could withdraw more money at a cheaper rate than he otherwise would have been permitted.” (para. 33) He did this by wrongfully claiming on a loan application that an investment property was owner-occupied (banks generally give you a more favorable interest rate if the property is owner-occupied). He was also able to borrow more money by claiming that part of the proceeds of a loan would be used to fund a renovation when in fact he did not intend to use the funds for that purpose.
The allegations in the indictment provide a nice case study of how real estate is used in money laundering.