My old celly, Paul Manafort, settled with the US Treasury and agreed to pay a $3.15 million civil penalty for failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and income derived from representing them on behalf of a deposed Ukrainian dictator. And while in light of my own tax fraud settlement, that number seems a bit low to me, what I’m not reading anywhere is exactly when Manafort has to pay that bill. Normally, people who have not fought with the federal government over unpaid taxes do not consider the schedule. But I, who have, know the deal.
Here’s the problem that no one who hasn’t been through the “process” realizes. While I was incarcerated, the federal government mistakenly sent me a bill for $686,000 that it had actually seized six years earlier, and informed me that the money would be withdrawn from my prison commissary account.
When I went to my counselor to explain the facts, as you can imagine, he was not interested since the situation was really out of his hands. His response was that the prison would take $25 out of my account every three months until the account was paid.
I think it’s safe to say that at $100/year, it would take several lifetimes to pay off a debt of $686,000. And I think that’s what’s happening with Manafort and his debt. I suspect he negotiated a laughable payment plan, and the $3 million+ deal is just for show.
I have absolutely no proof of this. It’s something my experience dealing with the Department of Justice has taught me.
When Paulie was transferred by the BOP from Pennsylvania to New York to face New York State charges, he came to the prison where I was incarcerated. Initially placed in protective custody, the warden decided that general population was where Manafort should reside, and that a sixty-something white defendant on a tax fraud charge named William Mersey would be the obvious choice to be Paul’s celly.
But among other differences, there was one that I considered the most marked. Paul took his untaxed money and bought, among other things, multiple home renovations for him and a $15,000 sports jacket.
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I, on the other hand, had not spent any of the money that had not paid taxes. It was all parked in a Vanguard fund that lent that cash to municipalities to improve infrastructure. Call me crazy, but until the moment I withdrew that money and spent it on a Rolls Royce, I stayed above it.
Paul, being something of an egomaniac (just my personal point of view), stood above me because I was a nobody, while he was somebody.
When I was arrested, the government had no problem securing the money I owed. They just seized almost all of my assets, which was way more than was actually owed to them, and then floated the money they would eventually have to repay without interest over 5.5 years. That is why my processing went on for more than half a decade.
To the contrary, while Paul made tens of millions representing the deposed dictator, he apparently saved nothing because when the dictator’s money stopped flowing to Manafort, Paul resorted to forging documents in a misguided attempt to borrow $4 million from any bank. I could take the bait. Who would do that unless they were broke?
Given the way Paul spends, my first thought when I read that he had settled with Treasury for a multi-million dollar payment was, “Where is Manafort going to get that money?” And the answer may well be that he won’t. The large number is for display. It is the payment plan that really matters. And we’re not hearing about it.
OK! So she didn’t get away with murder. But Paul got away easily enough from the crimes he committed and the laws he broke. More power to him. Next time (actually, there won’t be one for me) I think I’ll hire his lawyer. Who knows? Perhaps in the afterlife, Manafort will be a saver rather than a spender, though given his early forgiveness and the bottom line, I’m not sure he wouldn’t do it the same way if he had the chance. I don’t think Paulie got everything he deserved.
mersey is a freelance writer.