Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s “pit bull” personal attorney, owes New York state more than $40,000 in unpaid taxes through some of the lucrative taxi medallions he owns.
The New York Daily News first reported Tuesday that Cohen owed nearly $40,000 in unpaid taxes earmarked to help finance the Metropolitan Transit Authority system. A TPM review of state records confirmed that New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance this year filed seven warrants totaling $43,673.96 against four of Cohen’s medallion corporations.
Cohen told TPM in an email that the taxes are collected from drivers by the management company that handles the medallions. Cohen said his medallions are managed by Gene “The Taxi King” Freidman, a New York City taxi kingpin who was recently hit with a slew of lawsuits alleging professional misconduct.
Freidman pleaded not guilty in June to tax fraud and first-degree grand larceny charges for allegedly cheating the Empire State out of $5 million in unpaid taxes. Taxi passengers pay an extra 50 cents on each ride that managers are then supposed to pay toward funding the city’s overstretched transit system; Freidman is accused of collecting that tax but failing to fork it over to the state. Shortly before Friedman’s arrest on those charges, the Taxi & Limousine Commission confiscated 800 of the highly valuable medallions he manages.
Cohen pointed to a New York Post story about Freidman’s arrest by way of explaining why his own taxes had gone unpaid. Freidman did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
The website for New York state’s Department of Taxation and Finance, however, explains that medallion owners—like Cohen—with agents—like Friedman—are “jointly liable for the filing of your taxicab trip tax return.” It also states that failure to ensure that an agent is filing and paying the taxes will trigger a civil enforcement process. Penalties may include having the unpaid debts collected through levies, garnishment of wages or the seizure and sale of violators’ property.
Friedman described Cohen to TPM in a February interview as a close friend and business partner, noting that he’s managed medallions for Cohen and his wife, Laura, for more than 16 years. He also said that he often had dinner with the couple.
The Russian-born taxi baron is just one of Cohen’s many business connections to the former Soviet Union who boasts a long rap sheet; Cohen also joined up with his old pal Felix Sater, a convicted felon and former business partner of the President’s, to deliver a Ukraine “peace plan” to the Trump administration earlier this year.
Cohen is reportedly a person of interest in federal and congressional investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference, after a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent alleged that Cohen had met with a Russian representative during the campaign in Prague to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic operatives. Cohen denies the allegations in the dossier, which was compiled by former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele and remains largely unverified, and insists he’s never been to Prague.
The notoriously combative attorney retained Stephen Ryan, a Washington, D.C. lawyer with experience on lobbying and criminal cases linked to organized crime networks, to handle inquiries related to the federal investigation.
Correction: Freidman was born in Russia, not Ukraine.