Federal authorities investigating whether US President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, committed bank and tax fraud have zeroed in on well over $20 million in loans obtained by taxi businesses that he and his family own, according to people familiar with the matter.
Investigators are also examining whether Cohen violated campaign finance or other laws by helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Trump. The inquiry has entered the final stage and prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of August, two of the people said.
Any criminal charges against Cohen would deal a significant blow to the president. Cohen, 52, worked for the president’s company, the Trump Organization, for more than a decade. He was one of Trump’s most loyal and visible aides and called himself the president’s personal lawyer after Trump took office.
The bank loans under scrutiny, the total of which has not been previously reported, came from two financial institutions in the New York region that have catered to the taxi industry, Sterling National Bank and the Melrose Credit Union, according to business records and people with knowledge of the matter, including a banker who reviewed the transactions. Federal investigators in New York are seeking to determine whether Cohen misrepresented the value of his assets to obtain the loans, which exceed $20 million.
They are also examining how he handled the income from his taxi medallions and whether he failed to report it to the Internal Revenue Service. The two lenders were cited in the search warrants for raids that federal agents conducted this spring on Cohen’s office, home and a hotel room where he was staying, several of the people familiar with the matter have said. Sterling received a grand jury subpoena seeking records related to the loans, one of the people said.
At this late stage of the inquiry, it is still possible that 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. A cooperation agreement would likely include a provision that Cohen also provide information to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is probing possible involvement by the Trump campaign in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 polls. It is unclear whether the prosecutors and Cohen’s lawyers have had detailed discussions about a potential cooperation deal, but it is unlikely that the government would bring charges without having done so. nyt