The exhibit and witness lists special counsel Robert Mueller released before the ongoing Paul Manafort trial in Virginia gave us a hint that there would be some accusation having to do with season tickets for the New York Yankees. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis even mentioned the reference to the Yankees at pretrial, seeming to think he was confusing Manafort’s trial with another case. The prosecutors confirmed for him that there was indeed a Yankees tie to Manafort.
We already knew, via a search warrant for Manafort’s home that was unsealed earlier this summer, that investigators indicated that Manafort had allegedly claimed, while applying for a loan, that a $300,000 delinquency on his credit card was a loan to a friend for Yankees tickets that the friend paid back.
On Friday, as prosecutors questioned Manafort’s tax preparers, the Yankees tickets came up in a different context, without mention of the credit card debt. There were, however, suggestions that it was connected. As Uzo Asonye questioned Cindy LaPorta, a KWC accountant granted immunity, he went over an email Rick Gates sent her and another accountant in 2016 responding to their questions about Manafort’s consulting firm’s taxes.
Gates’ responses, which were displayed for the courtroom, indicated that the firm, Davis Manafort International, was reporting 4 seats at Yankees games, as well as tickets for other sports teams. LaPorta, asked during trial about the query about the sports team, explained that “80/20” referred to the practice of deducting 80 percent of the firm money spent on the ticket as a business expense and considering the other 20 percent a personal expense. She was asked what it would mean if someone else, other than the firm, had paid for the tickets. She said that if Davis Manafort International didn’t pay for them, then they’re not deductible.
The prosecutor didn’t go any farther than that, but I would guess we will be hearing about these tickets again as we delve deeper into Manafort and Gates’ conduct when Manafort was applying for the allegedly fraudulent loans.