LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul Manafort’s former son-in-law appeared in court Wednesday on charges that he pulled a series of fraud schemes while awaiting sentencing in federal court for similar crimes.
Jeffrey Craig Yohai, 36, was charged with identity theft and conspiring to commit wire fraud involving a $6 million investment scheme and floating $500,000 in fraudulent checks.
At the time, Yohai was free on bail after pleading guilty to fraud involving $15 million in real estate loans to rehab homes in the Hollywood Hills.
Yohai was previously married to Manafort’s daughter, Jessica. Yohai’s name surfaced during the bank and tax fraud trial for Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Manafort has been convicted several federal crimes and agreed to cooperate with investigators in the Russia probe.
The case outlined against Yohai mentions the Russia probe, but in doing so appears to debunk Yohai’s claims that he was also in discussions with the team headed by special counsel Robert Mueller and had turned on his former father-in-law.
Yohai mentioned in an unrelated New York civil case that he had missed court deadlines because of his involvement with the special counsel. He also told one of his alleged victims in the case unsealed Wednesday that he had “turned state’s evidence” against Manafort and had to go to Washington to meet with the special counsel’s office.
“I know these statements to be false as I was the case agent for the special counsel’s case against Manafort,” agent Sherine Ebadi wrote in an affidavit supporting the new charges. “The last time Yohai met with me was in April 2018 and the topic of conversation was Yohai, not Manafort.”
Yohai made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Wednesday and was held without bail, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
A federal defender listed as Yohai’s lawyer did not immediately return phone or email messages seeking comment. A cell phone listed for Yohai in court documents was not answered.
Prosecutors said Yohai’s scheme involved getting investments for legitimate projects that he would then use for personal expenses or to pay debts.
When it came time to pay, he would write checks from accounts without sufficient funds. When the checks bounced, he would claim to have wired the money and create fake documents as proof of the transfer.
One alleged scheme involved trying to buy a house in the Hollywood Hills that was listed for $20 million.
When Yohai and the owner couldn’t agree on a price, Yohai offered to rent the home out to rich clients while it was for being listed for sale. The clients included an NBA player who rented it for $160,000 for two months and professional soccer player who agreed to pay $60,000 for two weeks.
Yohai, who was seen driving several luxury cars including a Rolls Royce Phantom, failed to pay the money to the home owner and wrote several checks that bounced and produced records of wire transfers that never occurred, authorities said.
At one point, Yohai told the owner that he was getting the money from a prominent marijuana dealer who owed him $300,000. He showed up at the home owner’s house driving a Porsche Panamera and pulled a large bag of pot from the trunk that he offered as collateral.
The owner refused.
By BRIAN MELLEY
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