Color of Money: What allegations of Manafort's lavish spending say about society

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- Living too large is often what brings criminals down.

Topping the news right now is the indictment of two Trump campaign officials as part of the government's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

The indictment alleges that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates earned millions working as agents of the Ukraine government. They are accused of hiding much of this money, which they allegedly used to pay for their luxurious lifestyles.

The indictment says, "In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts."

In such cases, it always comes down to "follow the money."

Manafort is accused of laundering more than $18 million. Gates allegedly transferred more than $3 million from offshore accounts.


I'm programmed to look for financial lessons in most things. So I was particularly interested in the details coming out about what Manafort and Gates did with their supposed ill-gotten gains. Here's what the indictment says:

-- "Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income. Manafort, without reporting the income to his tax preparer or the United States, spent millions of dollars on luxury goods and services for himself and his extended family through payments wired from offshore nominee accounts to United States vendors."

-- Manafort allegedly withdrew money from offshore accounts to purchase multimillion-dollar properties. Some of his spending also allegedly included the purchase of four Range Rovers that cost a total of $210,705, and a Mercedes-Benz for $62,750; landscaping at a Hamptons property; and improvements to a house in Palm Beach, Florida. Manafort allegedly also spent $934,350 on antique rugs at a store in Alexandria, Virginia; close to $850,000 on clothing at one men's store in New York between 2008 and 2014; and another half-million dollars at a clothing store in Beverly Hills.

-- Gates allegedly used money from offshore accounts to "pay for his personal expenses, including his mortgage, children's tuition, and interior decorating of his Virginia residence."


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