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WSJ: Cohen under investigation for tax fraud

President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is under federal investigation for tax fraud after possibly underreporting income from his taxi medallion business, people familiar with the investigation told The Wall Street Journal.

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 6:08 AM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 6:31 AM

Federal prosecutors investigating President Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen have subpoenaed his former accountant and are examining whether financial institutions improperly granted loans to Cohen, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The accountant, Jeffrey Getzel, earlier this year received a subpoena from federal prosecutors to testify in front of the grand jury convened in the Cohen case, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. The subpoena was delivered prior to the early April searches by FBI agents of Cohen's home, office and hotel room, this person said.

Getzel performed work, including the preparation of financial statements, for Cohen as part of his taxi medallion business, which prosecutors have been scrutinizing as part of their months-long criminal investigation.

Prosecutors at the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York are also examining the banks that made loans to Cohen and studying whether those banks performed the appropriate vetting of Cohen's loan applications, another person familiar with the matter said. In particular, prosecutors have questioned whether there were individuals within the banks that helped Cohen get loans in instances in which he may not have been qualified to receive them, this person said.

Prosecutors have been scrutinizing a variety of documents submitted by Cohen to various institutions, including those to the Internal Revenue Service and those to Sterling National Bank, another person familiar with the matter said. In 2014, Sterling provided several loans of unspecified value to Cohen and his wife, and the two put up taxi medallions as collateral, according to public filings.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that federal prosecutors subpoenaed Getzel and that prosecutors had taken interest in the banks that gave Cohen loans. The Journal also said investigators were looking at whether Cohen underreported income derived from his taxi business in tax filings.

Typically prosecutors do not seek grand jury testimony of targets of an investigation, so the subpoena of Getzel to testify likely means he is considered a witness in the probe.

A spokeswoman for the US Attorney's Office declined to comment. Getzel and his attorney declined to comment. A spokesman for Sterling Bank declined to comment.

An attorney for Cohen, Lanny Davis, declined to comment "because of an ongoing investigation."

Cohen has been under investigation by federal prosecutors for months for a variety of matters, including possible bank fraud and possible election law violations related to payments he made to women who alleged affairs with his former boss, Trump.

Getzel, an accountant based in Woodbury, New York, has other ties to Cohen's orbit. Getzel also performed accounting work for Evgeny Freidman, a former business partner of Cohen who is known as the "Taxi King" for his ownership of numerous taxi medallions. Earlier this year, in May, Freidman pleaded guilty in a case brought by the New York state attorney general's office and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Getzel was considered a potential witness in the state AG's tax fraud case against Freidman, according to a person familiar with the matter.

An attorney for Freidman, Patrick Egan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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