Jeffrey Yohai, an ex-son-in-law of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was arrested by federal authorities Wednesday on charges he carried out a series of financial scams after pleading guilty to real estate fraud in federal court in Los Angeles earlier this year.
A criminal complaint secretly approved by a federal magistrate judge last month accuses Yohai of a veritable potpourri of fraudulent schemes totaling more than $21 million, including loan fraud, check kiting, cashing bad checks, forgery, selling fake tickets to the music festival Coachella and pawning $20,000 worth of stolen electric guitars and musical equipment.
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Yohai was mentioned several times at Paul Manafort’s trial on tax and bank fraud charges in a Virginia federal court this summer. Yohai wasn’t charged in that case and was never called as a witness, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors accused Manafort of providing fraudulent information in an effort to secure a loan from the Banc of California on properties he invested in with Yohai.
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That particular bank fraud charge was one of eight felonies a jury convicted Manafort on in August. Jurors split, 11 to 1, on the other charges, which were dismissed last month as part of a plea deal.
The new criminal complaint against Yohai makes clear that the investigation into the two men became significantly intertwined. Sherine Ebadi, the same California-based FBI agent who was a constant presence at Manafort’s trial as the lead case agent, swore out the affidavit used to arrest Yohai this week.
“During lunch, YOHAI told [the men] that he ‘turned state’s evidence’ on his father-in-law, Paul Manafort,” Edadi wrote. “YOHAI made several statements…that he had to go to ‘D.C.’ to meet with the Special Counsel’s Office or ‘downtown’ to meet with ‘the f.’”
“I know these statements to be false as I was the case agent for the Special Counsel’s case against Manafort. The last time YOHAI met with me was in April 2018 and the topic of conversation was YOHAI, not Manafort,” Ebadi added.
It’s unclear why Yohai’s claims of involvement in the Mueller probe would make him a more attractive participant in a business deal.
The new complaint confirms reports in POLITICO and other news outlets in May that Yohai pleaded guilty earlier this year in a federal fraud case stemming from his earlier efforts to obtain financing for high-end properties in the Los Angeles area that he intended to “flip” and re-sell.
Ebadi says Yohai pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of bank wire fraud in federal court in Los Angeles in February. That hearing was held behind closed doors. The case remains under seal for reasons that have not been revealed.
The new complaint levels two additional felony charges at Yohai: wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was formally advised of the new charges during an appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon, but the charges are preliminary and will likely be replaced with a grand jury indictment soon.
One of the most colorful claims in the new charges is that Yohai tried to use a stash of marijuana to cover the debt he owed to Coppelson for that rental and others.
“YOHAI said he was getting Coppelson’s money from a prominent marijuana grower who owed YOHAI $300,000,” Ebadi wrote.
“When YOHAI arrived at Coppelson’s house, he was driving a Porsche Panamera,” she added. “YOHAI said he did not have Coppelson’s money, but he pulled out a large bag of marijuana from the trunk of the vehicle and offered it to Coppelson as collateral for the money owed. Coppelson refused.”
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