Criminal Justice

Michael Cohen reportedly being investigated over more than $20M in loans to his taxi business

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Michael Cohen/ via Wikimedia Commons.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are considering filing criminal charges by the end of August against Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump.

Investigators are reportedly examining whether Cohen obtained more than $20 million in loans in December 2014 for his taxi business by misrepresenting the value of his assets, the New York Times reports. There is no indication that Cohen missed payments to the lenders, said to be Sterling National Bank and Melrose Credit Union.

Investigators are also scrutinizing Cohen’s taxi income, according to the report. So-called taxi king Evgeny Freidman, a disbarred lawyer, had worked with Cohen and is reportedly cooperating in the investigation. Cohen’s accountant has also testified before the grand jury.

According to a past report by the Wall Street Journal, Freidman managed Cohen’s taxi medallions. Freidman reportedly paid Cohen a fixed fee, enabling Freidman to keep income above that amount and forcing him to take a loss when the income dropped. Freidman sometimes paid Cohen in cash, according to an anonymous source who spoke with the Journal.

The new story by the Times says investigators are reportedly focusing on what Cohen did with the monthly payments and whether he reported the money to the Internal Revenue Service.

Also part of the probe are whether hush money payments to women who claimed affairs with Trump violated campaign finance or other laws, according to the Times.

Cohen’s lawyer has released a secret recording by Cohen in which he and Trump discussed a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal made by the publisher of the National Enquirer. Cohen reportedly paid adult films star Stormy Daniels $130,000, though he was later reimbursed.

Corporations are banned from spending money to influence campaigns in coordination with candidates, and prosecutors want to know whether there was a conspiracy to make an illegal campaign contribution, the Times says. Also, the limit on campaign donations by an individual to a federal candidate is $5,400 per election cycle.

“At this late stage of the inquiry,” the Times reports, “it is still possible that Mr. Cohen may plead guilty rather than face an indictment. He has hinted publicly and has stated explicitly in private that he is eager to tell prosecutors what he knows in exchange for leniency.”

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