Manafort’s mysterious lender concerned about political fallout

A California man who loaned Paul Manafort $1 million in 2017 just before the former Trump campaign chairman was indicted is so concerned about the political fallout that he’s asked a court to keep his name secret in a case about Manafort’s money.

The person who gave Manafort the loan — which prosecutors have said is suspiciously like other fake or illegal payments Manafort received — lives in Southern California, “where President Trump is highly unpopular,” according to a filing Thursday made by attorneys for the shell company that had claimed it’s the lender.

“It is well known that friendships and other relationships have shattered over political views in our current ‘tribal’ society,” the filing states.

The shell company is willing to share that name of Manafort’s benefactor with the court — but wants “to prevent the general public from learning the identity of a private person.”

“He has been and remains extremely concerned that if his identity is revealed to he public, he will suffer grave damage to his business and personal relationships due to the unpopularity of President Trump and anyone closely associated with the President, such as Paul Manafort, in California, where he lives and does business,” Thursday’s court filing said.

The shell company, Woodlawn LLC, is now showing the court paperwork that support that an attorney in Los Angeles working for the company and the benefactor wired $1.025 million to Manafort’s attorney in 2017.

The Manaforts, Woodlawn says, then made 11 payments to Woodlawn on the loan in 2017 and 2018.

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Prosecutors have previously said the supposed transactions between Manafort and Woodlawn sounded suspicious, given his past use of shell companies and admitted bank fraud when he sought mortgages to substantiate his income and claimed some of his wealth came from loans to avoid paying taxes.

Prosecutors even suggested the Woodlawn loan could be Manafort lending to himself — and now trying to claw back some amount of his illegally gained assets. Woodlawn LLC was created and gave Manafort about $1 million two months before his indictment, at a time when he knew he faced legal trouble for financial crimes.

Woodlawn called that accusation “misleading and frivolous” in a new court filing Thursday. The idea that Manafort made a “‘sham’ loan to himself … is a preposterous theory.”

“There is no relationship between Woodlawn and Manafort other than the one created by the arms-length loan itself,” the company’s lawyers wrote Thursday. It is seeking Manafort’s remaining debt on the loan out of the forfeiture he is turning over the US government.

Prosecutors said previously they never found evidence that Manafort got that loan in their extensive probe of his finances, which led them to a conviction at trial connected to Manafort’s use of shell companies and wire transfers to hide his foreign lobbying income.

In all, Manafort is forfeiting several properties and $11 million to the federal government for his crimes. He is also paying restitution to banks and the Internal Revenue Service.